Risk of Hepatocellular Cancer in HCV Patients Treated With Direct-Acting Antiviral Agents

Gastroenterology. 2017 Oct;153(4):996-1005.e1. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.06.012. Epub 2017 Jun 19.


Background and aims: The risk of hepatocellular cancer (HCC) after sustained virological response (SVR) with direct-acting antivirals (DAA) is unclear. Our aim was to examine the risk and determinants of HCC in patients cured with DAA.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of hepatitis C virus patients who were treated with DAA in any of the 129 Veterans Health Administration hospitals between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015. We calculated the annual incidence rates of HCC by SVR. We used Cox regression models to compare the risk of HCC in patients with vs those without SVR and to identify factors associated with incident HCC among patients with SVR. We reviewed a sample of HCC patients for tumor size and stage at diagnosis.

Results: Among 22,500 patients treated with DAA (19,518 with SVR; 2982 without SVR), the mean (standard deviation) age was 61.6 (6.1) years, and 39.0% had cirrhosis. There were 271 new cases of HCC, including 183 in patients with SVR. Compared with patients without SVR, those with SVR had a significantly reduced risk of HCC (0.90 vs 3.45 HCC/100 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio, 0.28, 95% CI=0.22-0.36). Patients with cirrhosis had the highest annual incidence of HCC after SVR (1.82 vs 0.34/100 person-years in patients without cirrhosis; adjusted hazard ratio, 4.73. 95% CI, 3.34-6.68). Most (>44.8%) HCC were classified as stage I. Maximum size of the largest lesion was ≤5 cm in over 75% of cases.

Conclusions: Among patients treated with DAA, SVR was associated with a considerable reduction in the risk of HCC. We did not find any evidence to suggest that DAAs promote HCC. However, in patients with SVR, the absolute risk of HCC remained high in patients with established cirrhosis. These patients should be considered for ongoing HCC surveillance.

Keywords: Liver Cancer; Outcome; Therapy; Viral Hepatitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / virology
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C / drug therapy*
  • Hospitals, Veterans
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Liver Cirrhosis / epidemiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / prevention & control*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / virology
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Liver Neoplasms / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Protective Factors
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sustained Virologic Response
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Burden
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antiviral Agents