Effect of pegbelfermin on NASH and fibrosis-related biomarkers and correlation with histological response in the FALCON 1 trial

Elizabeth A. Brown, Anne Minnich, Arun J. Sanyal, Rohit Loomba, Shuyan Du, John Schwarz, Richard L. Ehman, Morten Karsdal, Diana J. Leeming, Giovanni Cizza, Edgar D. Charles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: FALCON 1 was a phase IIb study of pegbelfermin in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and stage 3 fibrosis. This FALCON 1 post hoc analysis aimed to further assess the effect of pegbelfermin on NASH-related biomarkers, correlations between histological assessments and non-invasive biomarkers, and concordance between the week 24 histologically assessed primary endpoint response and biomarkers. Methods: Blood-based composite fibrosis scores, blood-based biomarkers, and imaging biomarkers were evaluated for patients with available data from FALCON 1 at baseline through week 24. SomaSignal tests assessed protein signatures of NASH steatosis, inflammation, ballooning, and fibrosis in blood. Linear mixed-effect models were fit for each biomarker. Correlations and concordance were assessed between blood-based biomarkers, imaging, and histological metrics. Results: At week 24, pegbelfermin significantly improved blood-based composite fibrosis scores (ELF, FIB-4, APRI), fibrogenesis biomarkers (PRO-C3 and PC3X), adiponectin, CK-18, hepatic fat fraction measured by MRI-proton density fat fraction, and all four SomaSignal NASH component tests. Correlation analyses between histological and non-invasive measures identified four main categories: steatosis/metabolism, tissue injury, fibrosis, and biopsy-based metrics. Concordant and discordant effects of pegbelfermin on the primary endpoint vs. biomarker responses were observed; the most clear and concordant effects were on measures of liver steatosis and metabolism. A significant association between hepatic fat measured histologically and by imaging was observed in pegbelfermin arms. Conclusions: Pegbelfermin improved NASH-related biomarkers most consistently through improvement of liver steatosis, though biomarkers of tissue injury/inflammation and fibrosis were also improved. Concordance analysis shows that non-invasive assessments of NASH support and exceed the improvements detected by liver biopsy, suggesting that greater consideration should be given to the totality of available data when evaluating the efficacy of NASH therapeutics. Clinical trial number: Post hoc analysis of NCT03486899. Impact and implications: FALCON 1 was a study of pegbelfermin vs. placebo in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) without cirrhosis; in this study, patients who responded to pegbelfermin treatment were identified through examination of liver fibrosis in tissue samples collected through biopsy. In the current analysis, non-invasive blood- and imaging-based measures of fibrosis, liver fat, and liver injury were used to determine pegbelfermin treatment response to see how they compared with the biopsy-based results. We found that many of the non-invasive tests, particularly those that measured liver fat, identified patients who responded to pegbelfermin treatment, consistent with the liver biopsy findings. These results suggest that there may be additional value in using data from non-invasive tests, along with liver biopsy, to evaluate how well patients with NASH respond to treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100661
JournalJHEP Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • fibroblast growth factor 21
  • liver fibrosis
  • non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • precirrhotic NASH
  • SomaSignal
  • steatosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of pegbelfermin on NASH and fibrosis-related biomarkers and correlation with histological response in the FALCON 1 trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this