Algorithm grades NASH from MRI scans in clinical study

  • August 16, 2018

NASH (*) has emerged as a concern for healthcare systems and a major opportunity for drug developers in recent years.  The condition, a severe form of fatty liver disease, can arise as a comorbidity in people suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes and can lead to cirrhosis.  Drug developers including Intercept and Gilead are working on drugs to treat NASH.  However, assessing the condition remains challenging.

(*)  Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is liver inflammation and damage caused by a buildup of fat in the liver.  It is part of a group of conditions called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  You may be told you have a “fatty liver”; however, NASH occurs in people who do not abuse alcohol.

Doctors still analyze liver biopsy specimens to stage patients with fatty liver disease; however, they also have access to a growing pool of validated noninvasive tools that help with risk stratification and the grading of fibrosis.

Perspectum Diagnostics’ LiverMultiScan is designed to expand the noninvasive toolkit.  The algorithm analyzes MRI scans to generate insights into a patient’s liver fat and other biomarkers relevant to the progression of liver disease.  Perspectum picked up an expanded FDA approval for the algorithm late last year.  And researchers have now published details of a 50-patient study of its effectiveness.

“Multiparametric MRI was superior for the grading of steatosis, grading of NASH severity and for excluding disease, but in this cohort was inferior for the staging of fibrosis,” researchers from Universities in Birmingham and Edinburgh wrote in their paper about the study.

The data suggest the algorithm may be better at identifying patients for whom a liver biopsy is unnecessary than existing noninvasive approaches such as liver stiffness.  If replicated at scale, the finding could generate savings for healthcare systems.  The authors put the savings at around $190 per patient.

REFERENCE:  Fierce BioTech; 12 FEB 2018; Nick Paul Taylor

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