Lay Summaries - Volume 71 Issue 3

Lay Summary: It is currently unclear which antiviral agent, entecavir or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, is superior for improving prognosis in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection. In this analysis we found that there was no difference in terms of overall prognosis, including risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, death, or the need for a liver transplant, in patients receiving either antiviral.
Lay Summary: Little is known about the burden of hepatitis E among patients with haematological malignancy. We conducted a retrospective European cohort study among 50 patients with haematological malignancy, including haematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, with clinically significant HEV infection and found that hepatitis E is associated with hepatic and extrahepatic mortality, including among patients with indolent disease or among stem cell transplant recipients in complete remission. Hepatitis E virus infection evolved to chronic hepatitis in 5 (45.5%) patients exposed to a rituximab-containing regimen and 10 (47.6%) stem cell transplant recipients. Reducing immunosuppressive therapy because of hepatitis E was associated with mortality, while early ribavirin treatment was safe and effective.
Lay Summary: There are now medications (direct-acting antivirals or “DAAs”) that can “cure” hepatitis C virus, but patients with hepatitis C and liver cancer may be less likely to achieve cure than those without liver cancer. However, patients with liver cancer are also more likely to have advanced liver disease and risk factors that can decrease cure rates, so better controlled studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Lay Summary: Patients who received direct-acting antiviral medications for hepatitis C at several liver centers in the US did not generally experience significant changes in baseline symptoms during treatment. We observed a full range of patient experiences with some patients experiencing substantial symptom improvements, yet others experiencing less improvements and some even experiencing a worsening of symptoms. The 1,346 patients who were cured of hepatitis C experienced improvements in fatigue, sleep disturbance, and functional well-being, and trends for improved pain and depression; whereas the 64 who were not cured experienced minimal improvements.
Lay Summary: Twelve weeks of the combination of direct-acting antivirals (SOF/VEL/VOX) was safe and effective in patients with relapsed hepatitis C virus infection who had previously received combination therapy with direct-acting antivirals. Treatment response was not diminished by HIV coinfection, or non-completion of previous direct-acting antiviral-based therapy.
Lay Summary: The sequence of events in chronic hepatic encephalopathy (HE) remains unclear, therefore using the advantages of in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy at 9.4T we aimed to test the hypothesis that neurometabolic changes are detectable very early in an established model of type C HE, offering insight into the primary events underpinning HE, before advanced liver disease confounds the findings. These early, previously unreported neurometabolic changes occurred as early as 2 to 4 weeks after bile-duct ligation, namely an increase in plasma ammonium and brain glutamine, a decrease in brain creatine and ascorbate together with behavioural and astrocyte morphology changes, and continued to progress throughout the 8-week course of the disease.
Lay Summary: Sorafenib has proven efficacy for the treatment of patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. However, overall survival remains poor in these patients, so we were interested to see if the addition of a statin, pravastatin, improved outcomes in patients with advanced HCC. This randomized-controlled trial demonstrated that the sorafenib-pravastatin combination did not improve overall survival in this study population compared to sorafenib alone.
Lay Summary: Patients with cirrhosis of the liver are at risk of getting hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC or liver cancer) and therefore it is recommended that they undergo surveillance for HCC. However, the risk of HCC varies dramatically in patients with cirrhosis, which has implications on if and how patients get surveillance, how providers counsel patients about the need for surveillance, and how healthcare systems approach and prioritize surveillance. We used readily available predictors to develop models estimating HCC risk in patients with cirrhosis, which are available as web-based tools at
Lay Summary: Gadoxetate disodium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging is an imaging technique with a high sensitivity for the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma. However, arterial-phase images may be unsatisfactory because of weak arterial enhancement. We found that using arterial subtraction images led to clinically meaningful improvements in the diagnosis of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma.
Lay Summary: The CheckMate 040 study evaluated the safety and efficacy of nivolumab in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma who were refractory to previous sorafenib treatment or chemotherapy. This subanalysis of the data showed that treatment responses and safety in patients in Asia were similar to those of the overall treatment population, providing support for nivolumab as a treatment option for these patients.
Lay Summary: Kupffer cells (KCs) are the tissue-resident macrophages of the liver. KCs can be originated from fetal precursors and from monocytes during the fetal stage and post-birth, respectively. Most immune cells in mice are sensitive to lethal-irradiation-induced death, while a subset of KCs resists radiation-induced death. These radioresistant KCs continue to live in the irradiated mice. We discovered that this relatively radioresistant KC subset are the fetal-derived KCs, and they achieve this through cell-cycle arrest. Understanding the radiobiology of KCs will provide valuable insights into the mechanisms that elicit radiation-induced liver disease.
    Cholestasis and Autoimmune Diseases
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    Christian de Tymowski, François Dépret, Sabri Soussi, Moreno Nabila, Thomas Vauchel, Maité Chaussard, Mourad Benyamina, Axelle Ferry, Alexandru Cupaciu, Marion Jully, Haikel Oueslati, Alexandre Fratani, Maxime Coutrot, Philippe Sogni, Maurice Mimoun, Marc Chaouat, Anne-Marie Zagdanski, Eric De Kerviler, Alexandre Mebazaa, Richard Moreau, Vincent Mallet, Matthieu Legrand for the PRONOBURN group
    Journal of Hepatology, Vol. 71, Issue 3, p563–572
Lay Summary: Cholestasis is common after burn injuries and is associated with burn severity, sepsis, organ failure and mortality. Patients with hyperbilirubinemia without elevated alkaline phosphatase and gamma-glutamyltransferase levels after the burn injury have a poor prognosis. Patients with burn-associated cholestasis may develop sclerosing cholangitis and secondary biliary cirrhosis.
Lay Summary: Activated portal fibroblasts and hepatic stellate cells, but not fibrocytes, contributed to the production of the fibrous scar in livers of Mdr2−/− mice, and these cells can serve as targets for antifibrotic therapy in cholestatic injury. Therapeutic inhibition of the enzyme NADPH oxidase (NOX) in Mdr2−/− mice reversed cholestatic fibrosis, suggesting that targeting NOXs may be an effective strategy for the treatment of cholestatic fibrosis.
Lay Summary: Knowledge of the natural history of a disease allows clinicians and patients to understand the risks that are associated with a medical condition. In this study we systematically gathered all the published data regarding the natural history of alcohol-related liver disease in people who had a liver biopsy. We used this data to define the prevalence of the disease, the annual risk of progression to cirrhosis and the annual risk of death at each stage of the disease.
Lay Summary: Excess liver iron content is common and is associated with liver diseases and metabolic diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. We identified 3 genetic variants that are linked to an increased risk of developing higher liver iron content. We show that the same genetic variants are linked to higher risk of many diseases, but they may also be associated with some health advantages. Finally, we use genetic variants associated with waist-to-hip ratio as a tool to show that central obesity is causally associated with increased liver iron content.