1 Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California, USA.
2 Department of General Medicine, Beijing Ditan Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing.
3 Genomics Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.
4 San Jose Gastroenterology, San Jose.
5 Gastroenterology Department, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Mountain View.
6 Primary Care, Chinese Hospital, San Francisco, California, USA
OBJECTIVES: Our goal was to evaluate the effect of antiviral therapy on hepatocellular carcinoma incidence for cirrhotic patients with lower hepatitis B virus DNA levels.
METHODS: Consecutive cirrhosis patients from a US cohort (n = 381) and 408 patients from a Taiwan cohort were enrolled. Patients were classified into a low (<20 IU/ml) and high hepatitis B virus DNA group (≥20 IU/ml), and each was further stratified into treated and untreated subgroups.
RESULTS: Except for hepatitis B e antigen, baseline characteristics were similar for both hepatitis B virus DNA groups. Antiviral therapy significantly reduced hepatocellular carcinoma incidence in cirrhotic patients with hepatitis B virus DNA ≥20 IU/ml at 5-years (12.2% vs. 22.8%) and 10-years (23.3% vs. 37.2%) (P = 0.0018). For cirrhotic patients with hepatitis B virus DNA <20 IU/ml, there was no statistically significant difference in cumulative hepatocellular carcinomaincidence between the treated and untreated groups. After adjusting for age, sex, and hepatitis B e antigen status, antiviral therapy was an independent predictor (hazard ratio 0.43, P < 0.0001) for reduced hepatocellular carcinomarisk in patients with hepatitis B virus DNA ≥20 IU/ml.
CONCLUSION: Antiviral therapy was associated with a 57% reduction in hepatocellular carcinoma incidence in chronic hepatitis B patients with cirrhosis and hepatitis B virus DNA as low as 20 IU/ml (but no lower). However, hepatocellular carcinoma incidence remained substantial, regardless of hepatitis B virus DNA levels and treatment status, highlighting the need for ongoing hepatocellular carcinoma surveillance for all cirrhotic hepatitis B virus patients.