Characteristics of patients with chronic hepatitis C who develop hepatocellular carcinoma after a sustained response to interferon therapy

Cancer. 2004 Oct 1;101(7):1616-22. doi: 10.1002/cncr.20537.


Background: The objective of the current study was to determine the characteristic features of sustained responders who develop hepatocellular carcinoma after treatment with interferon for chronic hepatitis C.

Methods: This study included 3626 patients with chronic hepatitis C who had received interferon monotherapy. Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to compare sustained responders who did and did not develop hepatocellular carcinoma, and nonsustained responders who developed hepatocellular carcinoma in a multicenter, retrospective cohort study.

Results: Among 1197 sustained responders, 27 patients developed hepatocellular carcinoma (2.3%). Compared with sustained responders who did not develop hepatocellular carcinoma, patients who developed disease more often were male (P = 0.0212), were older (P = 0.0068), and had advanced-stage histologic disease before interferon therapy (P = 0.0345). Conversely, compared with patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who were not sustained responders, patients who were sustained responders tended to be older at the time of the initiation of interferon therapy (P = 0.0552) and at the time hepatocellular carcinoma was detected (P = 0.0593), and they also were predominantly male (P = 0.0507). The histologic staging and serum aminotransferase levels at the initiation of interferon therapy, the interval to the detection of tumor, and the tumor size showed no significant differences between the two groups.

Conclusions: Sustained responders in the group at high risk for developing hepatocellular carcinoma after interferon therapy were older, more often were male, and had more advanced histologic disease stage. Such patients should be followed carefully periodically for > 10 years after they complete interferon therapy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / etiology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / pathology
  • Humans
  • Interferons / therapeutic use*
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Transaminases / blood


  • Interferons
  • Transaminases