BACKGROUND: We wished to determine whether pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) therapy after curative treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) prevents a recurrence of HCC.
METHODS: Thirty-seven HCC patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection who were treated with PEG-IFN after curative treatment (PEG-IFN group) and 145 controls without IFN therapy (non-IFN group) were enrolled. The overall survival and recurrence-free survival rates were compared between the groups, and the predisposing factors for recurrence and survival were analyzed. The rates were also examined by propensity score (PS) matched analysis that could minimize selection biases.
RESULTS: The median follow-up period was 3.7 years. The 5-year survival rate in the PEG-IFN group (91%) was significantly higher than that in the non-IFN group (56%; P < 0.01). The rate of the second recurrence but not that of the first recurrence of HCC in the sustained virological responder (SVR) group was lower than that in the non-IFN group (P = 0.03). Improvement of survival by PEG-IFN and low rate of second recurrence in the SVR group were also observed in PS matched analysis. Multivariate analysis revealed that PEG-IFN therapy and high serum albumin were good prognostic factors for survival. Although low serum albumin and large and multiple tumors were risk factors for the first recurrence, non-SVR and low serum albumin were risk factors for the second recurrence.
CONCLUSION: PEG-IFN-therapy after curative treatment of HCC improved the rate of survival, and SVR was found to be closely correlated with the prevention of recurrence.