Source Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Osaka Red Cross Hospital, 5-53 Fudegasaki-cho, Tennoji-ku, Osaka, 543-8555, Japan.
BACKGROUND: Increasing evidence suggests the efficacy of interferon therapy for hepatitis C in reducing the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of this study was to identify predictive markers for the risk of HCC incidence in chronic hepatitis C patients receiving interferon therapy.
METHODS: A total of 382 patients were treated with standard interferon or pegylated interferon in combination with ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C in a single center and evaluated for variables predictive of HCC incidence.
RESULTS: Incidence rates of HCC after interferon therapy were 6.6% at 5 years and 13.4% at 8 years. Non-sustained virological response (non-SVR) to antiviral therapy was an independent predictor for incidence of HCC in the total study population. Among 197 non-SVR patients, independent predictive factors were an average alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) integration value ≥10 ng/mL and male gender. Even in patients whose AFP levels before interferon therapy were ≥10 ng/mL, reduction of average AFP integration value to <10 ng/mL by treatment was strongly associated with a reduced incidence of HCC. This was significant compared to patients with average AFP integration values of ≥10 ng/mL (P = 0.009).
CONCLUSIONS: Achieving sustained virological response (SVR) by interferon therapy reduces the incidence of HCC in hepatitis C patients treated with interferon. Among non-SVR patients, a decrease in the AFP integration value by interferon therapy closely correlates with reduced risk of HCC incidence after treatment.