Cancer's Tipping Point Of No Return

Liver cancer recurrence risk decreased with antiviral medications

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Hepatitis B infection is serious business. The virus attacks and damages the liver which, over time, can lead to liver cancer.

That’s why someone who has chronic hepatitis B (HBV) infections is 100 times more likely to develop liver cancer than someone who isn’t infected with the virus.

A new study has found that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients who were given antiviral medications after surgery were less likely to see liver cancer return compared with patients who didn’t receive the antiviral drugs.

"Ask your doctor about treatments for chronic diseases."

Taiwanese investigators looked at the records of more than 4,500 patients whose HBV-related liver cancer was treated with surgery between 2003 and 2010. Of these patients, about 500 people received antiviral therapy with drugs called nucleoside analogues following surgery.

The short-term recurrence rate among those who had antiviral therapy was 21 percent, compared to 44 percent for those who didn’t receive the oral medication. The treated group also had lower death rates - 11 percent vs. 28 percent, according to the study led by Dr. Chun-Ying Wu, of National Yang-Ming University in Taipei.

The folks who received the antiviral therapy, though, were more likely to have cirrhosis of the liver than untreated patients - 48.6 percent vs. 38.7 percent.

After factoring out other risks and causes of death, researchers found that the 6-year cumulative risk of recurrence was 46 percent for the antiviral patients and 55 percent for the untreated group.

And the overall mortality rate was also quite a bit lower for treated patients vs. the untreated group - 29.0 percent vs. 42.4 percent, respectively.

“In conclusion, nucleoside analogue use was associated with a lower risk of HCC recurrence among patients with HBV-related HCC after liver resection,” the authors write.

Researchers looked at the impact other therapies had on recurrence. They found a link between cholesterol-lowering statins and 32 percent lower recurrence risks, while nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin use was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 29,000 Americans will be diagnosed with liver cancer in 2012 and about 20,500 will succumb to the disease.

This study was published November 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One of the authors reported working as an advisor for Arrowhead, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche. This researcher also received research grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, and GlaxoSmithKline.

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Review Date: 
November 17, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013