Interferon Therapy and Progression to Liver Cancer in HCV


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TITLE: Interferon therapy lowers the rate of progression to hepatocellular carcinoma in chronic hepatitis C but not significantly in an advanced stage: a retrospective study in 1148 patients. Viral Hepatitis Therapy Study Group.

BACKGROUND/AIM: Hepatocellular carcinoma frequently develops during the advanced stages of chronic hepatitis C. We examined whether interferon prevents the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in chronic hepatitis C patients.

METHODS: Japanese patients with chronic hepatitis C (n = 1.148; 117 with portal fibrous expansion (F1), 636 with bridging fibrosis (F2), 355 with bridging fibrosis and architectural distortion (F3)) and 40 cirrhotic (F4) patients were treated with interferon. These patients were followed from 1 to 7 years after interferon therapy. Blood tests and image analysis were serially performed to assess response to interferon and to detect hepatocellular carcinoma. Fifty-five cirrhotic type C patients (control F4) not receiving interferon were enrolled in this study.

RESULTS: Sustained (SR: 27.5%) and transient (TR: 23.0%) responders totaled 50.5%, while 49.5% did not respond to interferon. SR showed an improvement in disease stage reflected by increased platelet counts. Fifty-two patients (9 F2, 36 F3, and 7 F4) developed hepatocellular carcinoma in the follow-up period; 3 SR, 8 TR, and 41 non-responders (NR). The cumulative incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in F2 was significantly lower (p = 0.019) in SR compared with NR, but not in SR in F3 and F4 patients. However, the cumulative incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma was significantly decreased in all SR (p = 0.0001) and TR (p = 0.0397) compared with all NR. CONCLUSION: These results indicate that interferon therapy in chronic hepatitis C patients lowered the rate of progression of hepatocellular carcinoma in sensitive cases but not in patients in an advanced stage.

AUTHOR: Okanoue T, Itoh Y, Minami M, Sakamoto S, Yasui K, Sakamoto M, Nishioji K, Murakami Y, Kashima K Third Department of Internal Medicine, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Japan.
SOURCE: J Hepatol 1999 Apr;30(4):653-9

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