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Keywords:

  • hepatitis C;
  • hepatocarcinogenesis;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • interferon;
  • retreatment

summary. Inhibition of hepatocarcinogenesis is a crucial issue in treating chronic hepatitis C patients, especially those who do not respond completely to interferon therapy. Interferon has been reported to reduce the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) not only in sustained virological responders but also in transient biochemical responders. However, the incidence of HCC increases in 5 years or more after interferon therapy in transient biochemical responders. The aim of this study is to assess whether interferon retreatment reduces the incidence of HCC in chronic hepatitis C patients in whom hepatitis C virus was not eradicated during initial interferon therapy. We enrolled 309 patients who were not sustained virological responders after initial interferon treatment consisting of a total dose of more than 250 megaunits of interferon and were followed for more than 2 years after treatment. Ninety-nine patients received interferon retreatment and 210 did not. Two courses of interferon therapy were administered in 84, three courses in 14 and five courses in one. The incidence of HCC was compared between patients with retreatment and those without. In the clinical characteristics, retreated patients were younger and followed up for a longer time period. The cumulative incidence of HCC was significantly lower in retreated patients. In multivariate analysis, patients' age (P=0.018) and the number of courses of interferon therapy (P=0.022) were independently associated with HCC incidence. These results suggest that interferon retreatment reduces or delays the incidence of HCC in chronic hepatitis Cpatients who did not completely respond to initial therapy.