Outcomes in the Era of Interferon-Free Direct-Acting Antiviral Therapy After Liver Transplantation in Patients with Hepatitis C Virus and Hepatocellular Carcinoma

J Hepatocell Carcinoma. 2021 Jun 29:8:701-711. doi: 10.2147/JHC.S309354. eCollection 2021.


Background/aims: Several studies have shown improved outcome of liver transplant (LT) recipients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) since the widespread clinical use of interferon-free direct-acting antivirals (IFN-free DAAs). However, the association of IFN-free DAA therapy on tumor characteristics and on the outcome of LT in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has not been studied. We aimed to examine pre-transplant HCC characteristics and post-LT outcomes in the IFN-based DAA treatment and IFN-free DAA treatment eras.

Methods: Using the United Network for Organ Sharing/Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network database, we analyzed adults with a diagnosis of HCV and HCC who received LTs from deceased donors from 04/2012 to 12/2017. Cox regression models were used to identify the association between the IFN-based DAA treatment vs IFN-free DAA treatment era and study outcomes (mortality, graft failure, and HCC recurrence at 1 and 3 years).

Results: Complete tumor necrosis was significantly higher in the IFN-free DAA treatment era (22.73% vs 18.22%; P <0.01). No other HCC tumor characteristics differed significantly between the two eras. HCC recurrence rates were similar between the two eras. On multivariate Cox regression analysis, patients who had transplants in the IFN-free DAA treatment era had lower risk of graft failure compared with the IFN-based DAA treatment group (hazard ratio [HR], 0.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.25-0.77; P <0.01). Patient mortality was lower in the IFN-free DAA treatment era although the difference was not statistically significant (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.60-1.13; P =0.22).

Conclusion: LT recipients in the IFN-free DAA treatment era had significantly higher complete tumor necrosis in explants. Other HCC tumor characteristics were similar between the two eras. Post-LT graft failure at 1 and 3 years significantly decreased in the IFN-free DAA treatment era among patients with HCV and HCC, although patient mortality was not statistically different.

Keywords: direct-acting antiviral; hepatitis C virus; hepatocellular carcinoma; liver transplantation.