Antiviral Therapy May Lower Cancer Risk in Hepatitis B Patients

Patients receiving nucleos(t)ide analogue treatment for HBV have a lower risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis.

A recent study presented at The International Liver Congress 2016 revelaed that the risks of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cirrhosis are lowered significantly among patients in the immune tolerant phase of hepatitis B virus (HBV) who received neucleos(t)ide analogue treatment.

Once HBV is in the immune tolerant stage, the virus replicates in the liver, but is not recognized by the immune system. Patients can either receive pegylated interferon strategy or nucleos(t)ide analogues as a treatment.

A retrospective study was conducted in 644 patients who were HBeAg-positive chronic HBV with alanine aminotransferase levels within 2 times of upper normal limit. These patients did not show evidence of liver cirrhosis.

One group received antiviral therapy, whilethe control group received no therapy until the immune-active phase.

According to the results, the risk of developing HCC (Hazard Ratio [HR]= 0.084; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]=0.030-0,234; p<0.001) and liver cirrhosis (HR=0.250, 95% CI=0.089-0.707; p=0.009) were significantly lower in the group receiving antivirals.

Furthermore, antiviral treatment increased survival compared with the control group (HR=0.059, 95% CI=0.008-0.415; p=0.005).

"This study results are significant in helping to advance medical alternatives for patients with immune tolerant hepatitis B, a sub-group of patients who thus far, doctors have been hesitant to treat," said Tom Hemming Karlsen, MD, PhD, EASL vice-secretary.