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Antiviral Therapy May Cut Recurrence of Hepatitis B-Linked Liver Cancer
Date:11/12/2012

MONDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- People with liver cancer tied to infection with the hepatitis B virus who got antiviral therapy after cancer surgery had a lower risk of tumor recurrence than those who did not get it, according to a new study.

"Hepatitis B infection commonly leads to the development of liver cancer in patients with and without cirrhosis," explained one expert not connected to the study, Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

He also noted that antiviral therapy is now standard practice for these patients. Most experts "agree that all patients with hepatitis B and liver cancer, whether cirrhosis is present or not, and any level of the hepatitis B virus in the blood should be treated with antiviral therapy," Bernstein said.

In the new study, Taiwanese researchers compared results for more than 4,500 patients who had surgery for hepatitis B virus-related liver cancer between 2003 and 2010. The treated group consisted of about 500 patients who received antiviral therapy (drugs called nucleoside analogues) after surgery, while the remainder received no antiviral therapy.

The treated group had half the rate of cancer recurrence compared to the untreated group (21 percent vs. 44 percent) and a lower death rate (11 percent vs. 28 percent), according to the team led by Dr. Chun-Ying Wu, of National Yang-Ming University in Taipei.

Over six years, the risk of liver cancer recurrence was 46 percent in the treated group and 55 percent in the untreated group, while the risk of death was 29 percent in the treated group and more than 42 percent in the untreated group.

Treated patients, however, had a higher rate of liver cirrhosis: 49 percent vs. 39 percent.

The researchers calculated that antiviral therapy reduced the risk of cancer recurrence by a third overall. The use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs also was ass
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