Alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD) is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver failure, and the 12th leading cause of death in adult patients in the United States. ALD progresses from fatty liver, to alcoholic steatohepatitis, fibrosis/cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Pharmacological therapies for ALD are urgently needed as FDA-approved medications are currently available. In published work, we have demonstrated that the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-17A (IL-17A) is a critical mediator of alcohol-related liver damage in both humans and mice. IL-17A is mainly produced by CD4+ Th17 cells. IL-17A production is regulated by IL-23, a cytokine that promotes the maintenance, survival, and proliferation of Th17 cells. Our preclinical studies clearly demonstrate that blocking IL-17 signaling with an anti-IL-23 antibody-based treatment significantly improves alcohol-related liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and cancer. Here, we evaluate whether the IL-23 blocking antibody guselkumab effectively reduces serum levels of IL-23 and IL-17A as well as the number of circulating Th17 cells48,49 in samples from treated patients from our Phase I clinical trial. This Phase 1 trial will enroll adult participants who have a history of moderate to severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) along with documented clinical evidence of chronic liver disease due to alcohol but no evidence of cirrhosis or severe hepatic dysfunction or alcoholic hepatitis. It will follow a standard 3+3 Phase I dose escalation trial design with a maximum of 24 subjects. We will assess the drug?s safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics in a population that meets criteria for AUD and early signs of end-organ-damage to the liver, as made evident and quantified by advanced non-invasive MRI based biomarkers of liver fat and fibrosis. We will assess biomarkers for both guselkumab target engagement as well as biomarkers for early treatment response (ALT, ELF, Pro-C3).
Aim 1 : Assess safety and tolerability of guselkumab (anti-IL-23 monoclonal antibody) in a Phase 1 dose escalation study in patients with alcohol use disorder and alcohol-associated liver disease.
Aim 2 : Assess the pharmacokinetics of guselkumab in patients with alcohol-associated liver disease.
Aim 3 : Assess pharmacodynamics of guselkumab target engagement and biomarkers of early treatment response.
In preclinical studies, we demonstrate the efficacy of an IL-23 blocking strategy to improve alcohol-related liver damage. Here, we will clinically translate these findings by first testing the safety and tolerability of guselkumab, an FDA-approved anti-IL-23 antibody, in patients with alcohol-associated liver disease. We will also assess biomarkers for guselkumab target engagement as well as early biomarkers of treatment response.