Cytokeratin-18 is a sensitive biomarker of alanine transaminase increase in a placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover trial of therapeutic paracetamol dosing (PATH-BP biomarker substudy)

Scullion, Kathleen M. and MacIntyre, Iain M. and Sloan-Dennison, Sian and Clark, Benjamin and Fineran, Paul and Mair, Joanne and Creasey, David and Rathmell, Cicely and Faulds, Karen and Graham, Duncan and Webb, David J. and Dear, James W. (2024) Cytokeratin-18 is a sensitive biomarker of alanine transaminase increase in a placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover trial of therapeutic paracetamol dosing (PATH-BP biomarker substudy). Toxicological Sciences, 199 (2). pp. 203-209. Kfae031. ISSN 1096-6080 (https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfae031)

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Abstract

Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is a challenge in clinical medicine and drug development. Highly sensitive novel biomarkers have been identified for detecting DILI following a paracetamol overdose. The study objective was to evaluate biomarker performance in a 14-day trial of therapeutic dose paracetamol. The PATH-BP trial was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Individuals (n = 110) were randomized to receive 1 g paracetamol 4× daily or matched placebo for 2 weeks followed by a 2-week washout before crossing over to the alternate treatment. Blood was collected on days 0 (baseline), 4, 7, and 14 in both arms. Alanine transaminase (ALT) activity was measured in all patients. MicroRNA-122 (miR-122), cytokeratin-18 (K18), and glutamate dehydrogenase (GLDH) were measured in patients who had an elevated ALT on paracetamol treatment (≥50% from baseline). ALT increased in 49 individuals (45%). All 3 biomarkers were increased at the time of peak ALT (K18 paracetamol arm: 18.9 ± 9.7 ng/ml, placebo arm: 11.1 ± 5.4 ng/ml, ROC-AUC = 0.80, 95% CI 0.71–0.89; miR-122: 15.1 ± 12.9fM V 4.9 ± 4.7fM, ROC-AUC = 0.83, 0.75–0.91; and GLDH: 24.6 ± 31.1U/l V 12.0 ± 11.8U/l, ROC-AUC = 0.66, 0.49–0.83). All biomarkers were correlated with ALT (K18 r = 0.68, miR-122 r = 0.67, GLDH r = 0.60). To assess sensitivity, biomarker performance was analyzed on the visit preceding peak ALT (mean 3 days earlier). K18 identified the subsequent ALT increase (K18 ROC-AUC = 0.70, 0.59–0.80; miR-122 ROC-AUC = 0.60, 0.49–0.72, ALT ROC-AUC = 0.59, 0.48–0.70; GLDH ROC-AUC = 0.70, 0.50–0.90). Variability was lowest for ALT and K18. In conclusion, K18 was more sensitive than ALT, miR-122, or GLDH and has potential significant utility in the early identification of DILI in trials and clinical practice.