Limitations of the Study
The current study findings are not new, but this is the best-designed study to date, commented Flemming. Still, there were a number of limitations, she noted. Although cirrhosis is the strongest risk factor for HCC in patients with viral hepatitis, for instance, it was assessed only at cohort entry, and not during the median 8 years of follow-up. There was also a lack of information about sustained virologic response (SVR) rates.
Since less than 25% of patients with HCV received HCV therapy, this indicates they were likely treated with interferon-based therapy, Flemming suggested. Interferon-based therapy is associated with much lower SVR rates than direct acting antiviral (DAA) therapy, which can produce SVR in approximately 95% of patients, she pointed out.
“Therefore, a large proportion of the study patients were likely viremic and at a higher baseline risk of HCC than contemporary HCV populations.”
Evidence from a number of studies indicates that achieving SVR with DAA therapy is associated with a 70% risk reduction for incident HCC and liver-related events, Flemming said. “Whether the use of ASA in patients who have achieved SVR provides the same HCC risk reduction and decrease in hepatic outcomes is unknown.”
Also, the study did not provide information on the specific type of HBV therapy used in patients with HBV, Flemming noted. When considering the prevention of HCC in patients with chronic HBV infection, recent data support a differential protective effect of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (multiple brands) compared with entecavir (Baraclude, Bristol-Myers Squibb), she pointed out. As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, these data also indicate that tenofovir may be more effective than entecavir in reducing the risk of liver failure and all-cause mortality.
This study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, Nyckelfonden, Region Stockholm County, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Council, Region Örebro County, and Karolinska Institutet. Simon has disclosed no relevant financial relationships. A number of study coauthors disclosed having relationships with industry; the full list can be found with the original article. Flemming reported relationships with Gilead Sciences Canada, AbbVie, and Lupin Pharmaceuticals.
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N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 12..