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New biomarker predicts response to hepatitis C treatment
Date:8/16/2009

DURHAM, N.C. Researchers have identified the first genetic marker that predicts response to hepatitis C treatments, and a single letter of DNA code appears to make a huge difference. Duke University Medical Center scientists says the biomarker not only predicts who is most likely to respond to treatment and who isn't, but also may explain why there are such different rates of response among racial and ethnic groups, a phenomenon that has puzzled physicians for years.

"For geneticists, understanding response to treatment for hepatitis C infection has been almost like a Holy Grail," says David Goldstein, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Genome Variation in Duke's Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and the senior author of the study. "The side effects of hepatitis treatment can be brutal, and about half the time, the treatment fails to eradicate the virus. This discovery enables us to give patients valuable information that will help them and their doctors decide what is best for them. This is what personalized medicine is all about."

The discovery is reported online in the journal Nature.

Hepatitis C is one of the most common infections in the world, affecting an estimated 170 million people. Many can live with the disease for years without any serious complications. About a quarter of the time, however, the infection leads to cirrhosis of the liver, which, in turn, can lead to liver cancer or death or the need for a transplant. Hepatitis C is the leading cause for liver transplants in the U.S.

Treatment typically involves 48 weeks of interferon plus the antiviral drug ribavirin. Some patients develop such taxing side effects that they stop treatment. Physicians have long observed that African-Americans are less likely to respond to treatments than Caucasians, while East Asian patients seem to respond the best. But until now, no one has known why.

"This discovery appears to explain a large part o
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Contact: Michelle Gailiun
michelle.gailiun@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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