Background & Aims Peginterferon lambda-1a (lambda) is a Type-III interferon, which, like alfa interferons, has antiviral activity in vitro against hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV); however, lambda has a more limited extra-hepatic receptor distribution. This phase 2b study (LIRA-B) evaluated lambda in patients with chronic HBV infection. Methods Adult HBeAg+ interferon-naive patients were randomized (1:1) to weekly lambda (180 μg) or peginterferon alfa-2a (alfa) for 48 weeks. The primary efficacy endpoint was HBeAg seroconversion at week 24 post-treatment; lambda non-inferiority was demonstrated if the 80% confidence interval (80% CI) lower bound was >-15%. Results Baseline characteristics were balanced across groups (lambda N = 80; alfa N = 83). Early on-treatment declines in HBV-DNA and qHBsAg through week 24 were greater with lambda. HBeAg seroconversion rates were comparable for lambda and alfa at week 48 (17.5% vs. 16.9%, respectively); however lambda non-inferiority was not met at week 24 post-treatment (13.8% vs. 30.1%, respectively; lambda vs. alfa 80% CI lower bound -24%). Results for other key secondary endpoints (virologic, serologic, biochemical) and post hoc combined endpoints (HBV-DNA <2000 IU/ml plus HBeAg seroconversion or ALT normalization) mostly favored alfa. Overall adverse events (AE), serious AE, and AE-discontinuation rates were comparable between arms but AE-spectra differed (more cytopenias, flu-like, and musculoskeletal symptoms observed with alfa, more ALT flares and bilirubin elevations seen with lambda). Most on-treatment flares occurred early (weeks 4-12), associated with HBV-DNA decline; all post-treatment flares were preceded by HBV-DNA rise. Conclusions On-treatment, lambda showed greater early effects on HBV-DNA and qHBsAg, and comparable serologic/virologic responses at end-of-treatment. However, post-treatment, alfa-associated HBeAg seroconversion rates were higher, and key secondary results mostly favored alfa. ClinicalTrials.gov number: NCT01204762.
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