BOSTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Among patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), rates of sustained viral response (SVR) to direct-acting regimens for hepatitis C virus were 79% for genotype 1, 69% for genotype 2, and 47% for genotype 3 infections, reported George N. Ioannou, MD.

“These rates are lower than in patients who do not have hepatocellular carcinoma [HCC], but are still remarkably high,” Dr. Ioannou said during an oral presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. “Antiviral therapy should be considered in patients with early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma, ideally after adequate locoregional treatments.”

But patients with HCC might choose to postpone antiviral therapy until after transplantation if they are already listed and expect to undergo the procedure imminently, said Dr. Ioannou of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and University of Washington, Seattle. In the study, patients who took this approach achieved SVRs of 96% if they had genotype 1 (GT1) infection and 89% if they had genotype 3 (GT3) – about the same rates as for patients without HCC.

The study included Veterans Affairs Health Care System data on 17,487 recipients of direct-acting anti-HCV regimens. When patients did not have HCC, SVR rates were 93% for genotype 1 infection, 87% for genotype 2 (GT2), and 76% for GT3. Among the 624 (3.6%) patients with a history of HCC, 142 underwent antiviral treatment after transplantation and 482 received other types of cancer therapy.

Why HCC is associated with lower SVR in HCV patients remains unclear, Dr. Ioannou noted. Age does not seem to explain the effect, and neither does sex, race, or ethnicity; cirrhosis or decompensated cirrhosis; renal disease; diabetes; HCV viral load; genotype or subgenotype; HCV regimen; or treatment experience, he said.

Dr. Ioannou noted several study limitations. Nine percent of patients lacked data on SVR, and the imputation to correct for this lowered SVR rates by about 1%-2%. The dataset also did not include information on HCC tumor size or number, and the researchers have not yet examined how antiviral therapy affects the likelihood of de novo HCC, recurrent HCC, or progression of cirrhosis and liver dysfunction.

The Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development sponsored the study. Dr. Ioannou had no disclosures.