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Reuters Health Information (2006-09-11): Colchicine may prevent hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with viral hepatitis


Colchicine may prevent hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with viral hepatitis

Last Updated: 2006-09-11 19:10:00 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The anti-inflammatory agent colchicine may prevent or delay the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with hepatitis virus-induced liver cirrhosis, physicians in Mexico report.

Colchicine is used primarily to treat gout and immunologic diseases such as scleroderma. Multiple studies have ruled out the use of colchicine for progression of liver disease, Dr. Oscar Arrieta, an oncologist at Instituto Nacional de Cancerologia in Tlalpan, and his associates note in the October 15th issue of Cancer. However, they have found no published data regarding the drug's effect on the development of HCC.

According to their report, the research team evaluated the use of colchicine in 186 patients with hepatitis virus-related cirrhosis who were treated between 1980 and 2000. Colchicine was used to treat 62% of patients, at a dose of 1 mg 5 days/week, initiated when cirrhosis was diagnosed.

After 3 years' follow-up, cirrhosis had progressed among 56% of those taking colchicine and 60% of the other patients, further proof that colchicine has no direct effect on the progression of cirrhosis.

However, colchicine did appear to prolong time to HCC in these patients.

In the colchicine group, 9% developed HCC, versus 29% in the non-colchicine group (p = 0.0001), the researchers report. Average time to develop HCC was 222 months among those treated with colchicine, versus 150 months in the other group (p = 0.0001).

"Colchicine can prevent the development of HCC, independent of other factors such as age, platelet count, alpha-fetoprotein level, and transaminase levels," Dr. Arrieta and his associates conclude. However, larger prospective studies with longer follow-up will be required to confirm this observation, they add.

Cancer 2006.

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