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New Research on Hepatitis C Treatments and Liver Cancer

Recently, researchers from the United States, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan presented new data at The Liver Meeting. This meeting is held by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. The researchers studied the effect of treating hepatitis C on those with hepatitis C-associated liver cancer. We know that people with hepatitis C are at risk for developing liver cancer. This type of cancer is called hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC. However, we currently don’t know a lot about on how treating the virus may impact those with HCC.

Why it’s important to treat hepatitis C

The researchers compared those with HCC who had treated the virus to those who hadn’t. Specifically, one group had achieved SVR after treating with a direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drug, and the other did not. Overall, patients with HCC who treated their hepatitis C had a 60-70 percent improvement in their overall survival over the next five years. This means, those with liver cancer who treated their hepatitis C lived longer than those who didn’t treat the virus. This was true for both liver-related causes of death and all other causes of death. Because of this, the research team recommended that anyone with hepatitis C-related HCC be considered for hepatitis C treatment.

More about the research

Study participants came from the United States, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. The study ran from 2005 until 2017 and included almost 1,700 people with hepatitis C-related HCC. Participants were separated based on whether or not they had treated their hepatitis C with a DAA. Each person who did not treat their hepatitis C was matched to a similar person who did treat. This allowed the researchers to compare both groups. In order to find similar pairs of people, the researchers considered personal characteristics, cancer characteristics, and liver function. They made over 320 pairs of participants and followed each pair over time.

What are the chances of survival?

After following each pair, the researchers found that treating the virus led to higher rates of survival. Those who treated their hepatitis C had about an 88 percent overall survival over the next five years. Those who didn’t treat had only a 66 percent overall survival. Further, those who had achieved SVR had over a 90 percent liver-related survival compared to about 69 percent who didn’t treat. This means that those who treated had both a higher chance of overall survival and higher liver-related survival than those who didn’t.

Overall, these results led the researchers to suggest that every individual with hepatitis-C associated liver cancer should be considered for treatment with a DAA. Treating with a DAA while battling HCC may improve overall survival and lower the chance of death in the near future. While these results are interesting, much more information is needed to determine the true impact of treating hepatitis C on those with HCC. If you or a loved one has HCC and hepatitis C, talk with a doctor to see if treatment is right for you.

  1. All-Oral Direct-Acting Antiviral Treatments Improve Survival in Patients with HCV-Related Hepatocellular Carcinoma. FirstWord Pharma. Available at: http://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1679911#axzz64z1xaZiF. Accessed 11/13/19.

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