Biochemical surrogate markers of liver fibrosis and activity in a randomized trial of peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin



Liver fibrosis and activity indexes were validated in patients infected by hepatitis C virus (HCV) nontreated and treated by interferon. The aim was to validate their usefulness as surrogate markers of histologic features using the data of a randomized trial of combination peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin. Three hundred fifty-two patients who had had 2 interpretable liver biopsies and stored serum sample before and after treatment were selected. Two hundred eight patients received peginterferon alfa-2b 1.5 mcg per kg and ribavirin and 144 patients interferon alfa-2b 3 MU three times a week and ribavirin for 48 weeks. A fibrosis and an activity index combining 5 and 6 biochemical markers were assessed at baseline and at end of follow-up (24 weeks after treatment). The biochemical markers have significant predictive values both for the diagnosis of fibrosis and for activity. For the diagnosis of bridging fibrosis and/or moderate necroinflammatory activity, the area under the receiver operating characteristics curve of the activity index was 0.76 ± 0.03 at baseline and 0.82 ± 0.02 at end of follow-up. A cutoff of activity index at 0.30 (range, 0.00-1.00) had 90% sensitivity and 88% positive predictive value for the diagnosis of bridging fibrosis or moderate necroinflammatory activity. Sensitivity analyses with biopsy specimens of size greater than 15 mm suggest that a part of discordances between biochemical markers and histology were due to biopsy specimen sampling error. In conclusion, these biochemical markers of fibrosis and activity could be used as surrogate markers for liver biopsy in patients with chronic hepatitis C, both for the initial evaluation and for follow-up.