In comparison with peginterferon/ribavirin alone, boceprevir with peginterferon/ribavirin significantly improves sustained virological response (SVR) rates in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infections, but treatment failure remains a significant problem. Using phase 3 trial databases, we sought to develop stopping rules for patients destined to fail boceprevir-based combination therapy in order to minimize drug toxicity, resistance, and costs in the face of ultimate futility. Exploratory post hoc analyses using data from the Serine Protease Inhibitor Therapy 2 (SPRINT-2) study (treatment-naive patients) and the Retreatment With HCV Serine Protease Inhibitor Boceprevir and Pegintron/Rebetol 2 (RESPOND-2) study (treatment-experienced patients) were undertaken to determine whether protocol-specified stopping rules (detectable HCV RNA at week 24 for SPRINT-2 and at week 12 for RESPOND-2) could be refined and harmonized. In SPRINT-2, a week 12 rule with an HCV RNA cutoff of ≥100 IU/mL would have discontinued therapy in 65 of 195 failures (sensitivity = 33%) without sacrificing a single SVR among 475 successes (specificity = 100%). Viral variants emerged after week 12 in 36 of the 49 evaluable patients (73%) who would have discontinued at week 12 using a ≥100 IU/mL stopping rule. In RESPOND-2, five of six patients with week 12 HCV RNA levels between the lower limit of detection (9.3 IU/mL) and the lower limit of quantification (25 IU/mL) who continued therapy despite the protocol-stipulated futility rule achieved SVR; one additional patient with a week 12 HCV RNA level of 148 IU/mL also continued therapy, had undetectable HCV RNA at week 16, and attained SVR. Conclusion: Although a stopping rule of detectable HCV RNA at week 12 would have forfeited some SVR cases, week 12 HCV RNA levels ≥100 IU/mL almost universally predicted a failure to achieve SVR in both treatment-naive and treatment-experienced patients. In boceprevir recipients, the combination of 2 stopping rules-an HCV RNA level ≥100 IU/mL at week 12 and detectable HCV RNA at week 24-maximized the early discontinuation of futile therapy and minimized premature treatment discontinuation.
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