Aim: To assess the association between chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in Pakistan, and the genotype distribution among these HCC patients.
Methods: One hundred and sixty-one subjects with HCC were included in this study. Liver biopsy was performed on 145 of the patients; sixteen were excluded because they failed to fulfill the inclusion criteria. Qualitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed for hepatitis B virus and HCV. Samples positive for HCV RNA were genotyped using genotype-specific PCR and confirmed by HCV 5' noncoding region sequencing analysis.
Results: Chronic HCV infection was identified a major risk factor (63.44% of tested HCC patients) for the development of HCC. The time from HCV infection to appearance of cancer was 10-50 years. In the HCC patient population, broader distributions of genotypes were present with genotype 3a as the predominant genotype. Using the type-specific genotyping method, we found HCV genotype 3a in 40.96%, 3b in 15.66%, 1a in 9.63%, and 1b in 2.40% of HCC tissue samples. About 28% of cases were found with mixed genotypes. Two cases were unable to be genotyped because of low viral load. Sixty-six percent of treated patients with cirrhosis had an end of treatment response, but unfortunately they relapsed quickly when the treatment was discontinued, and HCC developed during a median 3.8 years.
Conclusion: There was a strong association between chronic HCV infection and HCC in Pakistan, and between HCV genotype 3a and HCC.