Source Klinikum der J.W. Goethe-Universität, Medizinische Klinik 1, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Resolution of the three-dimensional structures of several hepatitis C virus (HCV) proteins, together with the development of replicative cell culture systems, has led to the identification of a number of potential targets for direct-acting antiviral (DAA) agents. Numerous families of drugs that potently inhibit the HCV lifecycle in vitro have been identified, and some of these molecules have reached early to late clinical development.
Two NS3/4A protease inhibitors, telaprevir and boceprevir, were approved in Europe and the United States in 2011 in combination with pegylated interferon (IFN)-α and ribavirin for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C related to HCV genotype 1, in both treatment-naïve and treatment-experienced patients. Sustained virological response rates in the range of 6675% and 5966% (2988% if the response to the first course of therapy is taken into account) have been achieved in these two patient populations, respectively, with treatment durations of 24 to 48 weeks. A number of other DAAs are at the clinical developmental stage in combination with pegylated IFN-α and ribavirin or with other DAAs in IFN-free regimens, with or without ribavirin. They include second-wave, first-generation, and second-generation NS3/4A protease inhibitors, nucleoside/nucleotide analogue inhibitors and non-nucleoside inhibitorsof HCVRNA-dependent RNA polymerase, inhibitors of nonstructural protein 5A (NS5A) and host-targeted compounds, such as cyclophilin inhibitors and silibinin.
The proof of concept that IFN-free regimens may lead to HCV eradication has recently been brought. However, new drugs may be associated with troublesome side effects and drugdrug interactions, and the ideal IFN-free DAA combination remains to be found.