Directly acting antivirals reduce liver cancer risk in hepatitis C patients

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Red meat, Liver
Red meat, fatty liver

Results of the first study on directly acting antivirals published in The Lancet show positive outcome

The first prospective, longitudinal study investigating treatment of chronic hepatitis C with direct-acting antivirals finds that the treatment is associated with reduced risk of mortality and liver cancer, according to a study published in The Lancet.

The research is the first to demonstrate the clinical effectiveness of direct-acting antivirals on the disease and suggests that they should be considered for all patients with chronic hepatitis C infection.

For ethical reasons a trial with a control arm is not possible and researchers approached this by setting up an observational study of around 10,000 patients. At follow up, about three-quarters had been treated with direct-action antivirals and a quarter were untreated. The incidence of death and hepatocellular carcinoma – the most common form of liver cancer – were significantly decreased in patients who were treated. Their risk of decompensated cirrhosis was not reduced by the treatment.

Around the world, an estimated 71 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection causes complications such as cirrhosis, liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, and many people die as a result. Over the last 15 years, these complications have tripled and models predict they will peak between 2030 and 2035. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set targets for the elimination of hepatitis C, and a reduction of related complications. Recently, a modelling study published in The Lancet found that major progress towards these targets by 2030 is possible, but will require vast improvements in screening, prevention, and treatment.

Around the world, an estimated 71 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection causes complications such as cirrhosis, liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, and many people die as a resulT

Previous work has shown there is a reduction of risk for complications and mortality in patients who are treated with interferon or direct-acting antivirals, but few studies have compared treated and untreated patients. The aim of direct-acting antiviral drugs is to achieve a sustained virological response, meaning that the virus is undetectable in the blood of the patients. A recent Cochrane Review found no evidence for or against the treatment having a long-term effect on death and disease, so this large study is timely, and may help doctors and patients with treatment plans.

Overall, the study finds that direct-acting antiviral treatment is associated with reduced risk for global mortality and hepatocellular cancer, but not decompensation of cirrhosis. The researchers initially found an increase in risk associated with treatment with direct-acting antiviral treatment, but once they had adjusted for variables such as age, sex, body-mass index, severity of liver disease, geographical origin, infection route and other factors, they found a reduced risk.

 

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