How Can Hepatitis C Therapy be Personalized?

Blood test predicts which patients will respond to interferon.

Blood test predicts which patients will respond to interferon.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) may be simplified in the future through a blood test that can predict which patients will respond to interferon-based therapy.

In a study published in the May issue of Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, researchers evaluated how therapy for HCV could become personalized for patients.

"While highly effective direct-acting antivirals have become the new standard of care for patients with hepatitis C, these treatments come with a hefty price tag," said lead study author Philipp Solbach, MD, in a press release. "There may still be a role for the more affordable interferon-based therapies, and with this new information, we can better assess which patients will respond to this less-expensive treatment."

The study included a group of HCV-infected patients who received interferon-based therapies. The researchers found levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood was able to predict how the patients respond to treatment.

Commonly known as bad cholesterol, LDL can be identified through blood tests and can be utilized as a surrogate marker for oxidized LDL, the study noted. After the oxidized LDL was established as a marker of treatment response, the researchers evaluated HCV transmission from cell-to-cell through an in vitro culture system.

The results showed that oxidized LDL inhibited cell-to-cell spread, which indicates a mechanism within the relationship between oxidized LDL and a sustained viral response to interferon therapy. The study suggests drugs that inhibit the ability of the virus to enter cells may offer a useful addition to interferon therapy for HCV.

This approach may also be effective for other chronic viral infections, according to the study.

"The study provides important information about the mechanism whereby HCV infection occurs," said Rebecca G. Wells, MD, associate editor of Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology in a press release. "While direct-acting antivirals are coming to the forefront in HCV therapy, this study serves an important role in advancing our understanding of this complex virus."