Evolution of the HALT-C Trial: pegylated interferon as maintenance therapy for chronic hepatitis C in previous interferon nonresponders.

University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas, United States
Controlled Clinical Trials 11/2004; 25(5):472-92. DOI: 10.1016/j.cct.2004.08.003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial was designed to determine whether maintenance interferon therapy could slow disease progression in patients who had failed to eradicate hepatitis C virus (HCV) during prior interferon treatment (nonresponders). Ten clinical sites, a virological testing center, and a data coordinating center (DCC) were selected to collaborate in the design and implementation of the final protocol. Eligible patients had been treated previously with interferon for at least 12 weeks, with or without another antiviral, ribavirin, but still had persistent viremia. Because patients had received a variety of prior treatments, and as a perceived benefit of enrollment, we incorporated a Lead-in period of treatment with long-acting pegylated interferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin into the study design, a combination believed to be more effective but not approved by the Food and Drug Administration at the Trial's inception. If patients failed to achieve clearance of virus from the blood after 20 weeks of this Lead-in therapy, they were entered into the main trial at week 24 and randomized to receive either a lower dose of pegylated interferon weekly alone or no further therapy for an additional 3 1/2 years. The original protocol was amended later in three respects to improve enrollment and to adapt to Food and Drug Administration approval of the Lead-in therapy, including allowing patients to proceed directly to the randomized part of the study if treatment resembling the Lead-in had been completed. The protocol changes enhanced enrollment while upholding the original goals of the study and its integrity.

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    ABSTRACT: Peginterferon and ribavirin treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC) is frequently associated with dose-limiting neuropsychiatric toxicity. The purpose of this study is to determine whether prolonged administration of low-dose peginterferon-α2a is associated with an increase in the rate and severity of depression compared to untreated controls. 129 non-responders to full-dose peginterferon and ribavirin treatment were randomized to low-dose maintenance treatment with peginterferon-α2a 90 μg/week or no treatment for 3.5 years. Depression was assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) at baseline and at 12, 24, 36, and 48 months. "Clinical depression" was defined as BDI-II ≥11 and/or meeting DSM-IV criteria for major depression on the CIDI. Serial cortisol and serotonin plasma concentrations were obtained in a subgroup of patients. Rates of clinical depression did not significantly differ over time or between treatment groups. Baseline clinical depression was the only significant predictor of clinical depression over time (p<0.001). Rates of clinical depression were also significantly higher in patients experiencing liver disease progression (p=0.016). Antidepressant use did not significantly differ between groups. Adjusted whole blood serotonin levels dropped significantly over time (p=0.04), but there was no group by time effect. Lack of significant group differences in antidepressant use does not completely preclude significant mood changes masked by antidepressants. Results may differ in treatment naïve CHC patients or in those receiving full-dose peginterferon. Prolonged low-dose peginterferon-α2a treatment is not associated with an increase in the frequency or severity of clinical depression in prior non-responder patients with chronic hepatitis C.
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    ABSTRACT: Knowledge of the presence of cirrhosis is important for the management of patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Most models for predicting cirrhosis were derived from small numbers of patients and included subjective variables or laboratory tests that are not readily available. The aim of this study was to develop a predictive model of cirrhosis in patients with CHC based on standard laboratory tests. Data from 1,141 CHC patients including 429 with cirrhosis were analyzed. All biopsies were read by a panel of pathologists (blinded to clinical features), and fibrosis stage was determined by consensus. The cohort was divided into a training set (n = 783) and a validation set (n = 358). Variables that were significantly different between patients with and without cirrhosis in univariate analysis were entered into logistic regression models, and the performance of each model was compared. The area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve of the final model comprising platelet count, AST/ALT ratio, and INR in the training and validation sets was 0.78 and 0.81, respectively. A cutoff of less than 0.2 to exclude cirrhosis would misclassify only 7.8% of patients with cirrhosis, while a cutoff of greater than 0.5 to confirm cirrhosis would misclassify 14.8% of patients without cirrhosis. The model performed equally well in fragmented and nonfragmented biopsies and in biopsies of varying lengths. Use of this model might obviate the requirement for a liver biopsy in 50% of patients with CHC. In conclusion , a model based on standard laboratory test results can be used to predict histological cirrhosis with a high degree of accuracy in 50% of patients with CHC. (H EPATOLOGY 2005.) Peer Reviewed
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