Background: The glycosphingolipid α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) is known to stimulate invariant natural killer T-cells (iNKTs) and is able to induce powerful antiviral immune responses. The present dose-escalating randomized placebo-controlled Phase I/II trial aimed to investigate antiviral activity and safety of α-GalCer as a novel class of treatment for chronic hepatitis B patients. Methods: Patients were randomly assigned to 0.1 μg/kg (n=8), 1 μg/kg (n=6) or 10 μg/kg (n=6) α-GalCer or placebo (n=7) treatment. Results: Almost all α-GalCer-treated patients showed a rapid and strong decrease in natural killer T-cell (NKT) numbers. Patients with high baseline NKT numbers showed immune activation, including natural killer cell activation, increased serum tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 levels, and development of fever. Three patients demonstrated a transient decrease in hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA. Only one α-GalCer-treated patient had a sustained decrease in HBV DNA at the end of follow-up. Four patients discontinued therapy because of fever shortly after drug administration. No significant side effects were observed. Conclusions: α-GalCer (0.1-10 μg/kg) used as monotherapy for chronic hepatitis B infection resulted in a strong decrease of NKTs, but did not clearly affect HBV DNA and alanine aminotransferase levels. α-GalCer was poorly tolerated and is unlikely to be suitable as an alternative monotherapy to the current treatment regimen.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.3851/IMP1295, hdl.handle.net/1765/25440
Journal Antiviral Therapy
Citation
Woltman, A.M, ter Borg, M.J, Binda, R.S, Sprengers, D, von Blomberg, B.M.E, Scheper, R.J, … Janssen, H.L.A. (2009). α-Galactosylceramide in chronic hepatitis B infection: Results from a randomized placebo-controlled Phase I/ II trial. Antiviral Therapy, 14(6), 809–818. doi:10.3851/IMP1295