First UK patient for global liver disease trial takes part in Southampton

Southampton has recruited the first UK patient to an international clinical trial, which aims to find a treatment for itchy skin caused by a type of liver disease.

The GLISTEN trial aims to develop a new treatment for itchy skin experienced by people with primary biliary cholangitis (PBC).

Researchers in the hepatology team at University Hospital Southampton, led by Dr Janisha Patel, have recruited the first patient in the UK.

Treating PBC itch

PBC is a type of liver disease that can get gradually worse over time in some people. This can in sometimes develop liver failure and require a liver transplant.

One of the main symptoms is itchy skin. This can be widespread or only affect a single area, and is usually worst at night. This disrupts sleep and causes tiredness, which adds to the fatigue that many people with the condition also experience.

Targeting bile acid build-up

The trial is investigating the drug linerixibat as a new treatment for PBC-related itch. This targets a build-up of bile acids in the blood, thought to be the cause of the itchiness.

Bile acids are made in the liver, stored in the gall bladder and released into the gut when food is eaten. Usually, almost all (97%) of the bile acids are re-absorbed into the blood and returned to the liver. In those with PBC they instead accumulate in the blood.

Those taking part in the trial will be given linerixibat (or placebo) as a tablet to be taken twice a day. Linerixibat blocks a protein involved in bile acid re-absorption, meaning more bile acids are cleared from the body in the faeces.

The researchers hope this will help flush out the excess bile acids and reduce the severity of PBC itch, giving these patients some much-needed relief.

Dr Patel, consultant hepatologist, said: “I am proud to say we have recruited the first UK patient with PBC to the GLISTEN trial. This is a fantastic achievement, only possible due to the hard work and dedication of our amazing team. Thank you to everyone involved for helping to make this happen.”