Current treatment for Hepatitis C can be considered a cure, VCU researcher announces
Disease is leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for transplants
Monday, May 21, 2007
Abstract No. 444
Video Clip 1: "THIS
LONG-TERM STUDY SHOWS THAT 99 PERCENT OF PATIENTS WERE CURED OF THE HEPATITIS
Video Clip 2:
"THIS STUDY SHOULD ENCOURAGE PATIENTS WITH HEPATITIS C TO SEEK TREATMENT
IF THEY HAVEN'T DONE SO."
Video Clip 3: "THE
DRUGS ARE A ONE-TWO PUNCH AGAINST THE HEPATITIS C VIRUS."
The use of
peginterferon alone, or in combination with ribavirin, points to a cure for
hepatitis C, the leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for
liver transplant, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher said today.
Mitchell Shiffman, M.D., professor in the VCU School of Medicine, and chief of hepatology
and medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at the Virginia
Commonwealth University Medical Center, is one of the lead investigators in the
study, which was presented at the 38th annual Digestive Disease Week conference
in Washington, D.C. VCU was among
about 40 sites worldwide studying pegylated interferon alfa-2a, manufactured by
Nearly all — 99 percent – of patients with hepatitis C who were
treated successfully with peginterferon alone, or in combination with ribavirin,
had no detectable virus up to seven years later. Researchers say this data
validates the use of the word "cure" when describing hepatitis C treatment as
successful treatment is defined as
having undetectable hepatitis C virus in the blood six months following
"We at VCU are
encouraged by this data because it is rare in the treatment of life-threatening
viral diseases that we can tell patients they may be cured," Shiffman said. "In
hepatitis C today, we are able to help some patients achieve an outcome that
effectively enables them to put their disease behind them."
The results are based
on a long-term follow-up study designed to determine if the virus re-emerges in
patients who have achieved treatment success. The study reviewed 997 patients, either mono-infected with chronic HCV or
co-infected HCV and HIV, who achieved a sustained viral response (SVR) following treatment with either Pegasys
(peginterferon alfa-2a) monotherapy or combination therapy with Pegasys and
After successful treatment, researchers monitored serum
levels of HCV once a year for an average of 4.1 years (range 0.4 to 7 years).
Of the 997 patients, 989 maintained undetectable levels of HCV. The remaining
eight patients tested positive for HCV at an average of two years following
treatment completion. The study found that these eight patients exhibited no
consistency in age, gender or HCV genotype, and it has not yet been determined
if these patients experienced a relapse or if they were re-infected with HCV.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease of the liver
and a leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for liver
transplants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated
4.1 million Americans have been infected with hepatitis C, and 3.2 million are
chronically infected. The number
of new infections per year declined from an average of 240,000 in the 1980s to
about 26,000 in 2004, the latest year for which statistics are available. The
CDC estimates the number of hepatitis C-related deaths could increase to 38,000
annually by the year 2010, surpassing annual HIV/AIDS deaths.
Digestive Disease Week conference is the largest international gathering of
physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology,
hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. Jointly sponsored by the
American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the American
Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute, the American Society for Gastrointestinal
Endoscopy and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, DDW takes place May 19-24, 2007,
at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C. The meeting showcases
approximately 5,000 abstracts and hundreds of lectures on the latest advances
in GI research, medicine and technology. For more information, visit www.ddw.org.
About VCU and VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.