BACKGROUND: The aim of the study was to evaluate the clinical characteristics and the long-term outcome of chronic hepatitis C in a cohort of Caucasian children cured of pediatric malignancy.
PROCEDURE: The study population included 83 consecutive patients, referred to our Center with a diagnosis of leukemia/lymphoma (50) or solid tumors (33) between 1977 and 1989 and infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) during chemotherapy.
RESULTS: At enrollment 77 subjects were HCV-RNA positive. After a median follow-up of 21 years (range 13-36), a sustained virological response (SVR) was obtained in 3 of 29 patients (10%) treated with interferon (IFN), in 1 of 3 patients (33%) treated with IFN and ribavirin, and in 5 of 11 patients (42%) treated with pegylated-IFN and ribavirin (P = 0.03). Forty-two patients remained untreated and only one (2.5%) cleared viremia. Four of 77 patients (5%) developed cirrhosis while other 4 patients died of causes not related to liver. At last follow-up, 72% of HCV-RNA positive patients had abnormal ALT.
CONCLUSIONS: In patients cured of pediatric malignancy chronic hepatitis C tends to run an indolent course during childhood and adolescence but more than 70% of treated and more than 80% of untreated cases children maintained HCV viremia. Moreover, after 2-3 decades of observation, 60% of HCV-RNA positive patients had abnormal ALT and 5% had developed cirrhosis. Among treated patients, IFN or pegylated-IFN and ribavirin obtained the higher rate of HCV-RNA clearance.