Health Services Research & Development

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Kanwal F, Kramer JR, Asch SM, Cao Y, Li L, El-Serag HB. Long-Term Risk of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in HCV Patients Treated With Direct Acting Antiviral Agents. Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.). 2019 Jun 20.
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Abstract: Sustained virologic response (SVR) after direct acting antiviral agents (DAAs) holds promise for reducing hepatocellular cancer (HCC). DAAs have recently been available long enough to estimate the long-term risk. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients who achieved SVR with DAAs from 129 Veterans Health Administration hospitals between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015, with follow-up through September 30, 2018. We calculated the overall and quarterly HCC incidence rates. We examined the effect of demographic, clinical, and behavioral factors and the decline or increase of FIB-4 and aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index (APRI) on HCC risk. Among the 18,076 patients with SVR, 544 incident cases of HCC were diagnosed during the mean 2.9 years of follow-up. The cumulative 1, 2, and 3-year risks of HCC were 1.1%, 1.9% and 2.8%, respectively. Cirrhosis was strongly associated with HCC risk (adjusted hazard ratio = 4.13, 95% confidence interval = 3.34-5.11). The quarterly incidence rate of HCC remained stable between 1.00 and 1.23/100 person-years (PY) and 1.5 to 2.3/100 PY in patients with cirrhosis. The risk of HCC was the highest in patients who had persistently high FIB-4/APRI and both with and without cirrhosis. HCC risk fell in patients with cirrhosis who experienced a decrease of FIB-4/APRI scores yet remained higher than the accepted threshold for HCC surveillance. HCC risk was also higher in patients with alcohol use, older age, and infection with HCV genotype 3. Most patients treated at an early stage of liver fibrosis had a stable low risk. Conclusion: Patients successfully treated with DAAs and at risk of HCC did not regress after 3.6 years of follow-up. HCC risk remained above the accepted thresholds for surveillance in patients with cirrhosis. These data have important implications for HCC surveillance in cured HCV patients.