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Reuters Health Information (2007-08-31): Prolonged interferon therapy may prevent progression of hepatitis C to cancer


Prolonged interferon therapy may prevent progression of hepatitis C to cancer

Last Updated: 2007-08-31 15:20:29 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Prolonged interferon therapy reduces the progression of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), according to a report in the August issue of the Journal of Medical Virology.

Dr. Yasuji Arase and associates from Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo evaluated the effect of long-term interferon therapy on the development of HCC in 120 patients aged 60 years and older with chronic HCV-related hepatitis or cirrhosis.

These patients received 3 million units natural interferon-alpha two or three times weekly for up to 15.5 years. Another 240 similar patients treated with herbal medicines served as controls.

Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and transaminase levels decreased significantly in patients treated with interferon compared with patients not treated with interferon, the authors report.

The cumulative rates of HCC were significantly lower in the interferon group than in the interferon group at 5 years (5.9% versus 13.7%, respectively) and at 10 years (17.1% versus 32.8%, respectively), the report indicates.

In a multivariate analysis, not being treated with interferon, having advanced histological staging, and having serum AFP levels above 10 ng/mL after initiation of treatment were independently associated with a higher risk of progression to HCC.

Only 9 of 120 interferon-treated patients discontinued therapy because of adverse events.

Based on these findings, the researchers conclude, "Long-term interferon treatment for protection against HCC could be recommended for patients with elevated AFP levels and/or severe liver fibrosis who can tolerate interferon-related side effects."

J Med Virol 2007;79:1095-1102.

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