Liver cancer after hepatitis C: new risk strategy

Hepatitis C can now be effectively treated with modern drugs. However, although they have been cured, some patients may develop liver cancer. Currently, biannual ultrasound screening is done to monitor for incipient cancer. A research team from MedUni Vienna has now developed a new tool that can determine patients’ cancer risk in a single exam. Their study on this subject was recently published in the prestigious Journal of Hepatology.

Hepatitis C is a common viral infection worldwide. For some years it has been treated with modern drugs, so that it can be cured in more than 95% of cases. Although they have survived the viral infection, some patients who have developed scar tissue in their liver are at risk for liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). A biannual ultrasound is currently recommended as a screening measure for early detection, but it is inconvenient for patients and costly for the healthcare system.

The algorithm determines the risk
Now, a research group from the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology of the Department of Medicine III at MedUni Vienna has developed a risk stratification tool that only requires one single examination. Based on various non-invasive tests, the team led by Mattias Mandorfer and Georg Semmler was able to identify an algorithm to assess the individual risk of liver cancer based on blood values ​​and liver stiffness. This examination is carried out at the end of treatment for hepatitis C and also takes into account additional risk factors such as age and alcohol consumption.

This new tool makes it possible to differentiate patients at very low risk from those at high risk. While the previous recommendation for ultrasound screening would not seem effective in the case of low-risk cancer patients, consistent monitoring is needed in the high-risk patient group, say the researchers, highlighting the value of the results of the study. ‘study. The study has already confirmed the predictive value of the algorithm in a group of patients from several European countries and could greatly simplify follow-up procedures after hepatitis C treatment in the future. “Our study allowed us to capitalize on our previous scientific work and take a new step towards personalized follow-up of patients cured of hepatitis C”, adds Mattias Mandorfer.

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