(HealthDay News) – Antiviral treatment does significantly reduce the risk of developing liver cancer for patients with chronic hepatitis C infection, particularly in virological responders, according to a meta-analysis published online Oct 22 in BMJ Open.

Nina Kimer, from Copenhagen University Hospital Hvidovre in Denmark, and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of eight randomized trials examining antiretroviral treatment (interferon or pegylated interferon alone or with ribavirin) vs. placebo or no treatment and five prospective cohort studies of interferon treatment in patients with chronic hepatitis C, which were included in sensitivity analyses.

In the random effects meta-analysis, the researchers found that antiviral treatment correlated with a significant reduction in the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (risk ratio, 0.53). Treatment was more beneficial for patients who were virological responders than non-responders (risk ratio, 0.15 vs. 0.57, respectively). The cohort studies confirmed that antiviral treatment reduced the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, although there was clear statistical evidence of bias in the cohort studies, which was not observed with the randomized trials.

“Antiviral therapy may reduce the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in hepatitis C-related fibrosis and cirrhosis,” Kimer and colleagues conclude. “The effect may be seen irrespective of the virological response, but is more pronounced among virological responders compared with non-responders.”

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