A noninvasive test for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatic fibrosis could be used to help detect worsening hepatic fibrosis in psoriasis patients who are on long-term methotrexate therapy, according to the authors of a retrospective study published online Aug. 23.

To evaluate the use of the noninvasive test to monitor for hepatic fibrosis in this group of patients and guide the management of methotrexate (MTX) without a liver biopsy, investigators conducted an analysis of 107 patients with psoriasis who were on long-term MTX treatment, for whom the NASH FibroSure test was used between January 2007 and December 2013. All the patients were white, fifty were men, the mean age was 83 years, and almost all of the patients had a body mass index of 28 or more (16% had a BMI between 28 and 30, and 81% had a BMI over 30).

The NASH FibroSure test, which was developed for use in patients suspected of having nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), combines analyses of 10 biochemical markers combined with age, sex, height, and weight to calculate the degree of hepatic fibrosis. The test has a reported sensitivity of 83% and a specificity of 78% in detecting risk of significant fibrosis, according to Bruce Bauer, MD, of Pariser Dermatology Specialists, Norfolk, Va., and his coinvestigators (JAMA Dermatol. 2017 Aug 23. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.2083 ).

Among the 107 patients, the investigators found a statistically significant correlation “between worsening fibrosis scores and cumulative methotrexate” dose among women (P = .02), but not among men (P = .11). In addition, women with a BMI of 28 or more were more likely to have worsening fibrosis scores (P = .03). “There were no differences between men and women with regard to prevalence of a BMI of 28 or more, diabetes, age older than 65 years, or chronic kidney disease,” which they said, suggests that among women, “obesity influences the progression of fibrosis scores.”

The investigators advised providers not to disregard any potential warning signs when using FibroSure on men. “No differences between the cohorts were observed that would explain the association of worsening fibrosis scores and cumulative MTX dose among women but not men,” they wrote. “However, given the implications of the progression of hepatic fibrosis, we still recommend discontinuing MTX for male patients who demonstrate worsening fibrosis scores.”

While the test may not be able to replace liver biopsy, based on these results, the investigators noted that noninvasive tests such as this one could help significantly reduce the number of liver biopsies needed.

They pointed out that because the study was conducted at one center, the next step is to conduct “a prospective, randomized, multi-institutional analysis of NASH FibroSure and liver biopsies for patients with psoriasis receiving MTX vs. other treatments, including a larger cohort of men and women with different racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

One of the four authors reported receiving research funding from T2 Biosystems. Dr. Bauer and the two other authors reported no relevant financial disclosures. The study was funded by the Marshfield Clinic Resident Research Program.

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