Gastroenterology

The study find that the drugs for hepatitis C reduce liver-related deaths by nearly 50% in patients with a history of liver cancer. The finding builds on a December 2018 study by the same researchers who found that antiviral drugs do not increase the risk of liver cancer recurrence, as was previously feared. Dr. Amit Singal’s study is publish in the journal Gastroenterology on July 30. Dr. Singal is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine; Medical Director of the UT Southwestern Liver Tumor Program, and Clinical Chief of Hepatology.

The liver-related deaths

They collaborated on these studies with Dr. Caitlin Murphy; Assistant Professor of Population and Data Sciences and Internal Medicine. They are both members of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern. Their studies overturn prior misconceptions that made doctors reluctant to prescribe direct-acting antivirals to treat hepatitis C in patients with a history of liver cancer. Many doctors previously believed that hepatitis C, for all its harmfulness;activates the immune system when it infects the liver, and the immune system kept liver cancer recurrence at bay.

But this notion appears to be false. Drs. Singal and Murphy studied nearly 800 patients from 31 medical centers across the country and found that the drugs are not only safe, they decrease death from cirrhosis and liver cancer by 46%. Not only are these drugs safe in this patient population, but we have now demonstrated that they are helpful. But Our study changes the paradigm from you could treat a patient’s hepatitis C to you should treat it.”

Overturn prior misconceptions

Dr. Amit Singal, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Medical Director of the UT Southwestern Liver Tumor Program, and Clinical Chief of Hepatology Dr. Carlos L. Arteaga, Director of the Simmons Cancer Center, said the study’s scope and impact are something that can only be produced by a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Dr. Singal had more patients involved in the study than any other participating site. As an epidemiologist, Dr. Murphy brought rigor to the data that removes prior doubt on this issue,” he said.

Dr. Murphy said previous studies compounded the misunderstandings of direct-acting antiviral therapy because they, among other things, failed to account for the timing of therapy relative to liver cancer diagnosis, did not include a comparison group, or did not properly consider clinical differences among patients. The new study is a significant contribution because it clears the path to beneficial drug treatment. “Hepatitis C therapy is so important because it provides a cure,” Dr. Singal said. There’s less than a 1% chance of relapse if you’re cure of hepatitis C.”