Objective: Interferon is the first-choice therapy for HCV-positive mixed cryoglobulinemia, but only a small fraction of the patients show long-term recovery from the disease. In non-responders or relapsers, the second-line therapy (high dose interferon) generally is not effective. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of leukocyte interferon as a second-line therapy in patients who are non-responders or relapsers to a first course of recombinant interferon.
Methods: Twenty-eight patients with HCV-positive mixed cryoglobulinemia were enrolled. In each case the HCV-RNA and HCV genotype, as well as the usual laboratory parameters, were determined before, at the end of therapy and 1 year after the end of therapy. All patients were treated following the same schedule: leukocyte interferon 3,000,000 three times a week for one year.
Results: Only 5 patients obtained complete recovery from viral infection as well as from all signs and symptoms of the disease. Most patients (80%) experienced relief from clinical symptoms without recovery from HCV replication. Responders to the second interferon course were "relapsers" to the first treatment. No patient considered as a "non-responder" showed complete remission from the disease after the second treatment.
Conclusions: A second leukocyte interferon course could be useful for patients affected by mixed crvoglobulinemia who relapsed after a first course of recombinant interferon therapy.