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Combination Therapy With Ursodeoxycholic Acid (UDCA) and All-Trans Retinoic Acid (ATRA) for Treatment of Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

Information source: Yale University
ClinicalTrials.gov processed this data on August 23, 2015
Link to the current ClinicalTrials.gov record.

Condition(s) targeted: Cholangitis, Sclerosing

Intervention: Oral all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) (Drug)

Phase: Phase 1

Status: Active, not recruiting

Sponsored by: Yale University

Official(s) and/or principal investigator(s):
James L Boyer, MD, Principal Investigator, Affiliation: Yale University


The purpose of this research study is to determine whether the combination of UDCA and ATRA taken for 3 months will improve laboratory tests of liver and bile duct inflammation in patients with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). Our hypothesis is that a combination of these medications will improve the liver inflammatory tests in these patients, specifically a reduction in alkaline phosphatase (AP) by at least 30%.

Clinical Details

Official title: Combination Therapy With Ursodeoxycholic Acid (UDCA) and All-Trans Retinoic Acid (ATRA) for Treatment of Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis - A Human Pilot Study

Study design: Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment, Masking: Open Label, Primary Purpose: Treatment

Primary outcome: Improvement in serum alkaline phosphatase levels

Detailed description: Patients with PSC often have ongoing inflammation and fibrosis (scars) along the length of their bile ducts, and eventually this involves the liver itself which can lead to cirrhosis (severe scarring), severe infections (cholangitis), bile duct cancer and death. Although many patients are treated with UDCA, and experience improvement in their liver tests and relief of symptoms, no medical treatment to date has been found to produce a long-term improvement of inflammation and scarring, or to improved survival. For this reason, there is a great need to identify new medications which are effective for the treatment of PSC. Recent work in animals by the research group at Yale University School of Medicine has shown that the combination of UDCA and ATRA produced a significant improvement in liver scarring and inflammation in animals with bile duct disease similar to that seen in PSC. This improvement included a lowering in the levels of bile acids, which are harmful to the liver, and a lowering of inflammation in the liver tissue of these animals. The benefits seen in this study were greater in animals receiving the combination of UDCA and ATRA compared to animals who received either medicine alone. The medication ATRA is related to vitamin A, and has been used for many years as a topical medication in the treatment of skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis. It has also been used for nearly 20 years as an oral medicine in the treatment of a form of blood cancer (acute promyelocytic leukemia), where it is given for 90 days at a time. ATRA has been shown to produce a remission from the leukemia and is currently a standard treatment for patients with that specific condition. ATRA is not used routinely in the care of patients with liver or bile duct disease. Based on the benefits observed by treatment with ATRA and UDCA in our animal studies, the investigators plan to study this combination in patients with PSC and believe that this may be an effective regimen for patients with this condition. The investigators will check blood tests of the liver and bile ducts before, during, and after the treatment in order to look for changes to liver tests which would be due to the medication combination. Therefore, the goal of this study is to study the changes to liver tests in patients with PSC who take a combination of UDCA and ATRA for 90 days, comparing levels at the beginning of the study to those at the end of the study.


Minimum age: 18 Years. Maximum age: 80 Years. Gender(s): Both.


Inclusion Criteria:

- Diagnosis of PSC for at least 6 months, made by clinical evaluation in addition to

one of the following: a prior endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERC), magnetic resonance cholangiography (MRC, also termed MRI/MRCP) or liver biopsy.

- Progressing disease or stable disease with persistent elevation in AP despite

treatment with UDCA (15 mg/kg/day) for at least 6 months.

- Measures of progressing disease:

1. Cholangitis within the past 12 months. 2. Presence or progression of biliary abnormalities on MRI/MRC. 3. Elevated liver tests (alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase [AST], alanine aminotransferase [ALT]).

- Age between 18 and 80.

Exclusion Criteria:

- Pregnancy or planned pregnancy during study period and within 6 months of study


- Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) grade 3 or higher cardiac

disease, hyperlipidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hepatic injury, or adverse event related to administration of UDCA or ATRA.

- Prior intolerance to UDCA or ATRA (or related oral vitamin A compounds).

- Evidence of decompensated cirrhosis within the past 6 months (i. e. variceal bleeding,

uncontrolled ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, jaundice).

- Estimated need for liver transplantation within 1 year.

- Any evidence of hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, or other malignancy.

Locations and Contacts

Yale University School of Medicine - 333 Cedar St - 1080 LMP, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, United States

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, United States

Additional Information

Related publications:

He H, Mennone A, Boyer JL, Cai SY. Combination of retinoic acid and ursodeoxycholic acid attenuates liver injury in bile duct-ligated rats and human hepatic cells. Hepatology. 2011 Feb;53(2):548-57. doi: 10.1002/hep.24047. Epub 2010 Dec 10.

Starting date: October 2011
Last updated: June 30, 2015

Page last updated: August 23, 2015

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