Background/aims: It has been reported that hepatic iron concentration (HIC) may influence response to therapy in chronic viral hepatitis. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between HIC and response to interferon alfa therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Methods: HIC was measured in liver biopsy specimens from 58 patients with chronic hepatitis C treated at three centers. Three patients had mild chronic hepatitis C, 35 had moderate to severe chronic hepatitis C, and 20 had active cirrhosis. Serum ferritin levels were measured in 51 of these 58 patients. Response to therapy was defined as normalization of alanine aminotransferase levels at the end of treatment.
Results: Twenty-four patients (41%) responded to therapy. HICs were generally within the normal range (< 1500 micrograms/g). The mean HIC in nonresponders (860 +/- 100 micrograms/g; range, 116-2296 micrograms/g) was significantly higher than in responders (548 +/- 85 micrograms/g; range, 29-1870 micrograms/g) (P < 0.05). Eighty-eight percent of patients with an HIC of > 1100 micrograms/g and 87% of patients with an elevated serum ferritin concentration did not respond to interferon alfa therapy.
Conclusions: HIC seems to influence response to interferon alfa therapy among patients with chronic hepatitis C. A subgroup of patients with chronic hepatitis C has been identified for which an HIC of > 1100 micrograms/g predicted nonresponse in 88% of patients.