Background: Hepatitis B virus RNA (HBV-RNA) is a novel serum biomarker that correlates with transcription of intrahepatic covalently closed circular (cccDNA), which is an important target for pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and novel therapies for functional cure. We studied HBV-RNA kinetics following PEG-IFN treatment and its potential role as a predictor to response in HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. Methods: HBV-RNA levels were measured in 133 HBeAg-negative CHB patients treated in an international randomized controlled trial (PARC study). Patients received PEG-IFN α-2a for 48 weeks. HBV-RNA was measured from baseline through week 144. Response was defined as HBV-DNA <2000 IU/mL and ALT normalization at week 72. Kinetics of HBV-RNA were compared with HBV-DNA, HBsAg, and HBcrAg. Results: Mean HBV-RNA at baseline was 4.4 (standard deviation [SD] 1.2) log10 c/mL. At week 12, HBV-RNA declined by -1.6 (1.1) log10 c/mL. HBV-RNA showed a greater decline in responders compared to nonresponders early at week 12 (-2.0 [1.2] vs -1.5 [1.1] log10 c/mL, P=.04). HBV-RNA level above 1700 c/mL (3.2 log10 c/mL) had a negative predictive value of 91% at week 12 and 93% at week 24 (P=.01) for response. Overall, HBV-RNA showed a stronger correlation with HBV-DNA and HBcrAg (.82 and. 80, P<.001) and a weak correlation with HBsAg (.25). At week 12, HBV-RNA was significantly lower among patients with lower HBsAg (<100 IU/mL) or HBsAg loss at week 144. Conclusions: During PEG-IFN treatment for HBeAg-negative CHB, HBV-RNA showed a fast and significant decline that correlates with treatment response and HBsAg loss at long-term follow-up. Clinical Trials Registration: NCT00114361
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Clinical Infectious Diseases|
|Publication status||Published - 15 Jan 2021|
Bibliographical noteFinancial support. This study was supported and initiated by the Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, Toronto, Canada and the Foundation for Liver Research, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. For the original studies, financial support, study medication and drug supply were provided by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd (Basel, Switzerland).
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