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Long-term interferon therapy for 1 year or longer reduces the hepatocellular carcinogenesis rate in patients with liver cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C virus: A pilot study


Correspondence: Dr K Ikeda, Department of Gastroenterology, Toranomon Hospital, 2-2-2 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-8470, Japan. Email:


Background and Methods: In order to elucidate the influence of a long-term administration of interferon on the appearance rates of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related cirrhosis, we retrospectively analyzed 694 patients with cirrhosis. A total of 113 patients underwent interferon therapy, including 25 patients with a long-term administration of interferon for 1 year or more, and the other 581 patients received no antiviral drugs.

Results: Crude cumulative appearance rates of HCC in the interferon and the untreated groups were 14.1, and 28.4% at the end of the 5th year, and 36.7 and 52.5% at the end of the 10th year, respectively (P = 0.0028). As there was a waiting time between diagnosis and treatment (median 2.0 months, average 21.3 months) in the treated group, Cox proportional hazard analysis using a time-dependent covariate was introduced to evaluate the anticarcinogenic effect of interferon. Although male sex, higher α-fetoprotein, older age, lower albumin concentration, and lower platelet count significantly increased the carcinogenesis rate, interferon was not a significant contributing factor to the carcinogenesis rate as a whole (hazard ratio = 0.83, P = 0.32). When the patients with interferon were divided into two groups according to therapy duration, long-term interferon therapy significantly decreased the hepatocellular carcinogenesis rate after an adjustment by significant covariates (hazard ratio = 0.28, P = 0.0048).

Conclusion: When interferon is administered for 12 months or longer, effective cancer prevention will be achieved, even in patients with HCV-related cirrhosis.