NGM282, an experimental fibroblast growth factor analogue,
reduced liver fat build-up and the development of scar tissue in people with non-alcoholic
steatohepatitis, according to studies presented at the recent AASLD
Liver Meeting in San Francisco.
Researchers reported that a lower dose of NGM282
worked nearly as well as a previously tested higher dose, and its effects were still
apparent six weeks after stopping treatment. These findings set the stage for longer
and larger clinical trials.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its more severe form,
non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), are associated with obesity and the
metabolic syndrome. The build-up of fat in the liver triggers inflammation and
production of scar tissue (fibrosis), which over time can lead to cirrhosis,
liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant. There are currently no good
treatments for fatty liver disease, and its management instead relies on
lifestyle changes such as weight loss.
Abnormal fat deposits in the liver.
Stephen Harrison of the
University of Oxford and Pinnacle Clinical Research Center in San Antonio,
Texas, presented the latest findings from a phase 2 study of NGM282,
a genetically engineered analogue of human
fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19), a hormone that regulates bile acid
synthesis and fat metabolism. NGM282 targets multiple
processes involved in the development of NASH, including decreasing the toxic
effects of fatty acids and bile acids and reducing fat liver build-up.
phase II trial showed that people who received
3mg or 6mg daily injections of NGM282 experienced rapid liver fat reduction
according to MRI-PDFF (magnetic resonance imaging estimation of proton
density fat fraction), an imaging method for assessing liver fat accumulation.
This was followed by a paired biopsy study to see if treatment led to
improvements in liver histology, or appearance of liver tissue. At last year's EASL International Liver Congress in Paris,
presented results from 19 people with NASH treated with 3mg NGM282 for 12 weeks. All participants had at least a 30% relative reduction
and at least a 5% absolute reduction in liver fat content and nearly two-thirds
saw their liver fat content normalise (falling to 5% or less).
Bile acid, ALT liver enzyme and
fibrosis biomarker levels also decreased by 6 weeks. These non-invasive
assessments correlated with improvements in NAFLD activity score, inflammation,
steatosis, liver cell 'ballooning' and fibrosis on the second biopsy. A late-breaking poster presented at The Liver Meeting showed that liver
fat content, ALT and the Pro-C3 fibrosis marker remained below baseline levels
at week 18, or six weeks after stopping treatment.
NGM282 was safe and
generally well tolerated, with the most common side-effect being mild
diarrhoea. However, NGM282 led to an increase in LDL cholesterol levels, which can
raise cardiovascular disease risk.
At The Liver Meeting,
Harrison presented results from a new cohort of 24 people treated with a lower
dose of 1mg daily NGM282 for 12 weeks. About 80% were women, the median age was
about 50 years, average liver fat content at baseline was nearly 20% and about 40%
had advanced (stage F3) fibrosis. They could start rosuvastatin at week 2, if
needed, to manage LDL cholesterol.
The result showed that the
1mg dose worked nearly as well as the 3mg dose, with "significant,
meaningful reductions" across a variety of non-invasive markers of fatty
liver disease, Harrison said.
The relative liver fat
reduction at week 12 was -57% in the 1mg group compared with -67% in the 3mg
group; the absolute fat reduction was about 11% in both groups. Just over 90%
had at least a 30% relative reduction and at least a 5% absolute reduction in
fat content in the 1mg group, versus 100% in the 3mg group. However, those in
the lower-dose group were about half as likely to achieve liver fat
normalisation (33% vs 63%).
ALT and AST liver enzyme
levels decreased rapidly, and by similar amounts, in both dose groups. Pro-C3
levels fell significantly in both groups by week 6, but the relative and
absolute reductions were smaller in the 1mg group. Both groups had reduced ELF
scores, an index associated with NASH severity.
Again, paired biopsies done
at week 12 showed improvements; however, a smaller proportion of people in the
1mg group had improvements in NAFLD activity score (75% vs 84%), steatosis (67%
vs 74%), inflammation (33% vs 42%), 'ballooning' (42% vs 53%) and fibrosis (25%
vs 42%). In both groups, those with worse fibrosis at baseline saw the most
Here too, treatment was
safe and well tolerated. LDL levels rose after starting NGM282, but fell at
week 2 after adding the statin, and from week 4 onward were below baseline
level. Gastrointestinal symptoms were the most common side-effects, mostly mild
and transient, though two people stopped treatment due to diarrhoea. Separating
injections from meal times and eating smaller meals appears to reduced GI
Asked about the apparent
lesser improvement in liver histology in the 1mg group versus the 3mg group,
Harrison suggested that people may need to be treated longer with the lower
dose to see similar improvement.
Based on these findings, NGM
Bio will conduct a larger phase 2b study of NGM282 treatment for 24 weeks in
people with NASH and moderate to advanced fibrosis. In addition to NASH, NGM282
is also being tested as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, primary biliary cholangitis
and primary sclerosing cholangitis (two conditions involving inflammation
and blockage of bile ducts in the liver).
NGM Bio is also developing a FGF21 drug called NGM313 for NASH and type
2 diabetes. Another late-breaking poster at The Liver Meeting showed that a single
dose led to "robust reductions" in liver fat content and improved
insulin sensitivity in obese people with NAFLD.
histological improvements observed after just 12 weeks of treatment with NGM282
point to an agent that, if ultimately approved, could provide an important and
much needed medicine for physicians to reverse fibrosis in NASH patients with
well-established disease," Harrison said in a NGM
Bio press release.