Showing posts with label partial responders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label partial responders. Show all posts

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Realize the advance in Hepatitis C treatment, but remain cautious.

J Hepatol. 2011 Aug 8. [Epub ahead of print]

Realize the advance in HCV treatment, but remain cautious.

Asselah T.
Service d'hépatologie, Hôpital Beaujon, Clichy, France and INSERM, U773, Centre de Recherche Bichat-Beaujon CRB3, and University Paris Diderot.

Up to 60% of patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection do not have a sustained virologic response to therapy with peginterferon alfa plus ribavirin.

In this randomized, phase 3 trial, we evaluated the addition of telaprevir to peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin in patients with HCV genotype 1 infection who had no response or a partial response to previous therapy or who had a relapse after an initial response.

A total of 663 patients were assigned to one of three groups:
the T12PR48 group, which received telaprevir for 12 weeks and peginterferon plus ribavirin for a total of 48 weeks; the lead-in T12PR48 group, which received 4 weeks of peginterferon plus ribavirin followed by 12 weeks of telaprevir and peginterferon plus ribavirin for a total of 48 weeks; and the control group (PR48), which received peginterferon plus ribavirin for 48 weeks. The primary end point was the rate of sustained virologic response, which was defined as undetectable HCV RNA 24 weeks after the last planned dose of a study drug.

Rates of sustained virologic response were significantly higher in the two telaprevir groups than in the control group among patients who had a previous relapse (83% in the T12PR48 group, 88% in the lead-in T12PR48 group, and 24% in the PR48 group), a partial response (59%, 54%, and 15%, respectively), and no response (29%, 33%, and 5%, respectively) (P<0.001 for all comparisons). Grade 3 adverse events (mainly anemia, neutropenia, and leukopenia) were more frequent in the telaprevir groups than in the control group (37% vs. 22%).

Telaprevir combined with peginterferon plus ribavirin significantly improved rates of sustained virologic response in patients with previously treated HCV infection, regardless of whether there was a lead-in phase.

(Funded by Tibotec and Vertex Pharmaceuticals; REALIZE number, NCT00703118.).

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From Podium to Practice: Clinical Impact of New Data From EASL 2011
Source: CCO Independent Conference Coverage of the 2011 Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver*
By: Graham R. Foster, FRCP, PhD, Paul Y. Kwo, MD, Stefan Zeuzem, MD

BL is a patient infected with genotype 1 hepatitis C virus (HCV) who previously relapsed following peginterferon/ribavirin therapy. You are planning to begin a course of telaprevir-based therapy in this patient.

Would you counsel this patient that a peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in phase would be a useful tool in guiding the course of her therapy? To maximize the value of your assessment, this response is required.

REALIZE: Telaprevir Plus Peginterferon alfa-2a/Ribavirin in Patients With Genotype 1 HCV Who Failed Previous Peginterferon/Ribavirin

Expert Analysis

Stefan Zeuzem, MD: At the 2011 Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), investigators presented extensive new data from studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) agents for the treatment of HCV infection. Two key discussion points that emerged from these studies included how can these agents be combined to optimize patient outcomes and what are the most important predictors of response? In addition, several notable reports focused on emerging data related to the treatment of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, hepatocellular carcinoma, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. We will begin this Expert Analysis with an in-depth review of the HCV highlights from the meeting.

The randomized, placebo-controlled phase III REALIZE trial evaluated telaprevir plus peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin in patients infected with genotype 1 HCV who previously failed peginterferon/ribavirin therapy (Capsule Summary).[1] In total, 662 patients were randomized to the following treatment arms: telaprevir plus peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin for 12 weeks followed by peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin alone for 36 weeks (n = 266); peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin lead-in for 4 weeks then telaprevir plus peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin for 12 weeks followed by peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin alone for 32 weeks (n = 264); or peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin alone for 48 weeks (n = 132). The study included patients with previous null response, partial response, or relapse following at least 1 previous course of peginterferon/ribavirin therapy; patients with previous viral breakthrough were excluded.
The sustained virologic response (SVR) rates were significantly higher in the telaprevir-containing arms relative to the peginterferon/ribavirin control arm in each previous treatment failure subgroup (P < .001 for each comparison); however, SVR rates to telaprevir-based treatment were notably higher among previous relapsers vs previous partial or null responders (83% to 88% vs 29% to 59%, respectively), with previous null responders exhibiting the lowest SVR rates of 29% to 33%.

Among previous relapsers, SVR rates to telaprevir-based therapy were similar regardless of fibrosis stage. These data suggest that the lower response rates among previous partial and null responders are not related to fibrosis stage but rather to their poor responsiveness to peginterferon/ribavirin. In addition, SVR rates to telaprevir-based therapy were higher with subtype 1b HCV compared with subtype 1a HCV (in particular for previous partial and null responders).

Graham R. Foster, FRCP, PhD: To investigate the predictors of response to telaprevir-based therapy among treatment-experienced patients, my colleagues and I[2] conducted a retrospective subanalysis of the REALIZE study comparing the use of previous response categories (null, partial, or relapse) vs HCV RNA response to a 4-week peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in phase as predictors of SVR (Capsule Summary).

The current subanalysis was restricted to patients treated in the control arm (n = 121) and in the telaprevir arm that included a 4-week peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in phase: peginterferon/ribavirin for 4 weeks followed by telaprevir plus peginterferon/ribavirin for 12 weeks followed by peginterferon/ribavirin for 32 weeks (n = 240). The importance of the REALIZE study was that it included true null responders whose HCV RNA decreased by < 2 log10 at Week 12 of peginterferon/ribavirin, as well as patients who experienced some degree of viral suppression (partial responders whose HCV RNA decreased by ≥ 2 log10 at Week 12 but remained detectable during treatment) and relapse patients (HCV RNA undetectable at the end of treatment but detectable after stopping treatment). Enormous efforts were taken to establish a previous treatment history before patients were enrolled. The question posed by the retrospective analysis was, “Is it better to examine the patients’ previous treatment response or to give the patients a quick 4-week lead-in of peginterferon and ribavirin to characterize them as responders vs nonresponders?”

This analysis concluded that if there is a very clear history showing how the patient previously responded to peginterferon/ribavirin, one can obtain a good prediction of how the patient will respond to retreatment with telaprevir-based therapy. Specifically, previous relapsers experienced a 90% SVR rate with telaprevir-based therapy. By contrast, the SVR rate was 58% among previous partial responders and 30% among previous null responders.

When assessing SVR rates based on response to the 4-week peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in, it is interesting that some patients who ultimately did very well with telaprevir-based retreatment initially responded rather poorly through 4 weeks of treatment. For example, 10% of previous relapsers experienced a < 1 log10 reduction in HCV RNA after the 4-week lead-in phase; however, 62% of these patients achieved SVR with subsequent telaprevir-based therapy. Likewise, previous partial responders who experienced a < 1 log10 HCV RNA reduction during the 4-week lead-in phase achieved a 56% SVR rate with telaprevir-based retreatment. That finding raises concern that if treatment response predictions were based on the 4-week lead-in response in this population, clinicians may discontinue therapy in a significant minority of patients who would otherwise have achieved SVR. Thus, I would counsel our case patient (a previous relapser) that a 4-week lead-in phase would add very little value and would not be helpful in determining her optimal course of therapy.

By contrast, response to the 4-week lead-in phase had much stronger predictive value among previous null responders. The SVR rate following telaprevir-based therapy among previous null responders who experienced a < 1 log10 HCV RNA decrease during the 4-week lead-in phase was 15% vs 54% in the subgroup who achieved ≥ 1 log10 HCV RNA reduction with the lead-in.
Therefore, in my practice, I plan to treat all patients for whom I have identified a well-characterized previous null response with a 4-week lead-in of peginterferon/ribavirin prior to adding telaprevir; if they do not exhibit an adequate response to the lead-in, I will discuss with them the limited value of continuing treatment. However, if they do respond, I will encourage them to initiate a telaprevir-based regimen. On the other hand, I will not assess the HCV RNA response at Week 4 in previous relapsers and previous partial responders because I do not think the information will alter my management plan. There are also patients for whom I do not have sufficient information to accurately characterize their previous treatment response; in those patients, the 4-week lead-in might provide some additional information, although this approach should be used with caution, bearing in mind that if their previous response was partial or relapse, a poor response to the 4-week lead-in may not portend a low likelihood of SVR.

Paul Y. Kwo, MD: I agree completely that the 4-week lead-in will be very useful in patients who do not have an accurate viral kinetics profile from their previous treatment course, with the important caveat noted by Dr. Foster that if the unknown previous response was relapse or partial response, basing the retreatment decision on the 4-week lead-in response may discourage therapy in a considerable proportion of patients who would have benefited. For example, in the REALIZE study, previous relapsers with a less than 1 log10 IU/mL reduction in HCV RNA after the 4-week lead in went on to a high SVR rates (62%). If one had relied on just the lead-in period to decide whether or not to add telaprevir because you did not have accurate pretreatment viral kinetics—that is, if one chose to stop treatment and not add telaprevir—one might potentially deny a relapse patient a very good opportunity to achieve SVR. In well-characterized null responders, I concur with Dr. Foster’s approach of using a lead-in in this setting as well.

Stefan Zeuzem, MD: In considering the poorer SVR rates among previous null responders, there are 4 key factors that potentially impact their retreatment response: liver histology, HCV subtype, IL28B genotype, and response to a 4-week peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in phase. It is important to distinguish between the relative contributions of each of these factors in order to determine the best individualized treatment approach for previous null responders. A careful dissection of an individual patient’s likelihood of response to retreatment with a protease inhibitor–containing regimen can allow clinicians to better counsel patients on the relative benefit of initiating retreatment at the current time vs waiting until newer, more effective therapies such as quadruple regimens are available.

As noted earlier, fibrosis stage did not appear to be a significant factor in previous relapsers; however, in previous partial and null responders, SVR rates were impaired in patients with cirrhosis. The significance of IL28B genotype is also likely to be limited in this setting because the majority of patients with a null response to previous peginterferon/ribavirin will have the unfavorable CT or TT genotype. However, this analysis of the REALIZE trial showed convincingly that among previous null responders, response to the 4-week lead-in phase of peginterferon/ribavirin alone identified subgroups with a notable difference in SVR rates with telaprevir-based therapy. Based on these data, I agree that previous null responders may represent a population in which response to 4-week peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in could be an important determinant of whether to proceed with treatment using protease inhibitor–based triple therapy or to wait longer for more effective options.

Paul Y. Kwo, MD: For previous null responders, the risks of offering therapy to those who have a poor response to a 4-week lead-in include the adverse effects of peginterferon/ribavirin and the generation of resistance associated variants. Also, preliminary data suggest that more effective regimens with combinations of DAA agents may be available in the future for this group of patients. The most challenging patients continue to be previous null responders with advanced fibrosis. This group exhibits poor response to peginterferon/ribavirin and they often have many negative predictive factors, yet these patients are most at risk for decompensated cirrhosis, hepatocellular cancer, and the need for liver transplantation. In the absence of other available protocols or for this group it may be reasonable to consider retreatment despite the lower likelihood of success.

Graham R. Foster, FRCP, PhD: I agree entirely, particularly when considering that in the United Kingdom 20% of patients are dying on the wait list for liver transplantation. In that context, a 15% chance of response may well be worth taking even among this group with a poor initial response to a peginterferon/ribavirin lead-in phase. Therefore, it is important to counsel the patient on their options, provide them with all of the data, and help them to make the most informed decision possible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011Chronic Hepatitis C-Full Text

Gut Liver. 2011 June; 5(2): 117–132.
Published online 2011 June 24. doi: 10.5009/gnl.2011.5.2.117
PMCID: PMC3140655

Chronic Hepatitis C

Jae Young Jang* and Raymond T. Chung†
*Institute for Digestive Research, Digestive Disease Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
†Gastrointestinal Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Corresponding author.
Correspondence to: Raymond T. Chung. Gastrointestinal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Warren 1007, Boston, MA 02114, USA. Tel: +1-617-724-7562, Fax: +1-617-643-0446, Email:

Received February 9, 2011; Accepted March 21, 2011.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract The goal of antiviral therapy for patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is to attain a sustained virologic response (SVR), which is defined as undetectable serum HCV-RNA levels at 6 months after the cessation of treatment. Major improvements in antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C have occurred in the past decade. The addition of ribavirin to interferon-alfa therapy and the introduction of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) have substantially improved SVR rates in patients with chronic hepatitis C. The optimization of HCV therapy with PEG-IFN and ribavirin continues to evolve. Studies are ongoing that use viral kinetics to tailor therapy to an individual's antiviral response and determine the ideal length of treatment to maximize the chance of SVR. Improved SVR can be achieved with new specific inhibitors that target the HCV NS3/4A protease and the NS5B polymerase. Several long-term follow-up studies have shown that SVR, when achieved, is associated with a very low risk of virologic relapse. Furthermore, antiviral therapy can reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with chronic hepatitis C by reducing fibrosis progression, the incidence of cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
Keywords: Chronic hepatitis C, Virology, Therapeutics

INTRODUCTION Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects 170 million people worldwide.1 It causes severe liver disease, ranging from chronic hepatitis to cirrhosis and even hepatocellular carcinoma.2 HCV-related liver diseases are responsible for 12,000 deaths annually in the United States. In contrast to most other viral infections, the hallmark of HCV viral infection is that most patients develop chronic infection after viral exposure.3 Unfortunately, no effective vaccine is available for HCV. The current treatment for chronic HCV infection is the combination of peginterferon (IFN)-α and a nucleoside analogue, ribavirin.4 This article reviews our current understanding of chronic hepatitis C infection.

EPIDEMIOLOGY HCV is an RNA virus known to infect humans and chimpanzees, causing a similar disease in these 2 species. HCV is the most common cause of transfusion-related hepatitis and is one of the leading causes of end-stage liver disease requiring liver transplantation in the United States. HCV is transmitted most efficiently by parenteral means, particularly with large or repeated exposure to infected blood products, upon transplantation of infected tissue or organ grafts, and between intravenous drug users (IVDU). Less frequently, HCV can be transmitted by mucosal exposure to blood or serum-derived fluids through perinatal or sexual means.5
In 2004, the Global Burden of Hepatitis C Working Group, a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), estimated the global prevalence of HCV to be slightly lower than 2.2%, or 130 million individuals. The lowest HCV prevalence, between 0.01% and 0.1%, is in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, while the highest prevalence, between 15% and 20%, is in Egypt (Fig. 1).6 Hepatitis C is estimated to be the cause of 27% of cirrhosis and 25% of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cases worldwide.7
Fig. 1
Geographic distribution of hepatitis C infection worldwide, 2007 (Data from International Travel and Health [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2007 [cited 2009 Mar 11]. Available from:

Prior to the implementation of universal screening of blood donors in the United States in 1992, the predominant mode of HCV transmission was exposure to infected blood and blood products. At present, IVDU and high-risk sexual exposures account for most HCV transmission.6 Enhanced screening of blood products has led to a decline in the estimated incidence of acute hepatitis C from 180,000 in the mid-1980s to an estimated 19,000 in 2006. HCV is estimated to cause 8,000 to 10,000 deaths per year related to liver complications and HCC.6
The WHO Western Pacific region has an estimated HCV prevalence of 3.9%, or 62.2 million people. Approximately 3.2% of China's population, or 38 million individuals, were found to have HCV in a national epidemiologic survey performed between 1992 and 1995. The primary means of transmission in China is IVDU, and HCV incidence in the injection drug user (IDU) cohort is as high as 3.6 cases per 100 person-years.8 In Japan, the estimated HCV prevalence is 2%, or 2 million people.9 The prevalence is directly proportional to age, with the highest rate of 7% seen in individuals older than 70 years.10 Modes of transmission include blood transfusions, IDU, and unsafe needle use in medical practice prior to 1980. Hepatitis C is the major etiological factor for HCC in Japan, where HBV is not endemic.11

GENOTYPES There are 6 HCV genotypes (genotypes 1 to 6), many subtypes (a, b, c, etc.), and approximately 100 different strains (1, 2, 3, and so forth) based on the sequence heterogeneity of the HCV genome (Fig. 2).12 Genotypes 1 to 3 are widely distributed globally, with genotypes 1a and 1b accounting for 60% of infections worldwide. Genotype 1a is predominantly located in northern Europe and North America, whereas genotype 1b is predominantly found in southern and eastern Europe and Japan. Genotype 2 is less common than genotype 1 and is found more frequently in Europe than in North America. Genotype 3 is endemic to South-East Asia, and genotype 4 is characteristic of the Middle East, Egypt, and central Africa. Genotype 5 is almost exclusively found in South Africa, and genotype 6 is primarily distributed in Asia.5,13-15
Fig. 2
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) sequences have been classified into six major genotypes with approximately 65% sequence identity. Within each genotype, sequences are further classified into subtypes with 78% sequence identity. Different isolates within the same (more ...)
The impact of the viral genotype on the pathogenesis of liver disease remains a subject of controversy, but the influence of the genotype on the response to interferon-based therapy is established. Genotype 1 is generally associated with a poorer response to therapy, whereas genotypes 2 and 3 have more favorable responses. Genotype 4 seems to have an intermediate response.15,16

VIROLOGY OF HEPATITIS C HCV was first isolated in 1989.17 It is a plus-stranded RNA virus with a genome size of 9.6 kb (Fig. 3).1 The virus is classified as the distinct genus Hepacivirus in the family Flaviviridae.18 HCV replicates through a negative-strand RNA intermediate without evidence of DNA formation. Although viral RNA has been detected in the serum, spleen, and lymph nodes of infected patients, most in vivo and in vitro evidence supports the notion that HCV is a hepatotropic virus and that viral RNA replicates exclusively in human hepatocytes.
Fig. 3
Genomic structure of hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is a plus-stranded RNA virus. The total viral protein is 3011 amino acids (aa) in length. It consists of structural and nonstructural proteins processed from a single polyprotein by host and viral proteases. (more ...)
HCV encodes a single polyprotein of 3011 amino acids. Translation occurs through cap-independent and internal ribosome entry site-mediated mechanisms. The HCV internal ribosome entry site translation system requires the formation of a protein complex composed primarily of eukaryotic initiation factors 2 and 3.19 This protein is subsequently processed into at least 10 functional proteins to support viral replication and production.
A host signal peptidase is responsible for cleavage between C/E1, E1/E2, E2/p7, and p7/NS2. Viral NS2, however, is responsible for cleavage of NS2/3, and the NS3 protease is responsible for downstream protein processing.20

The HCV core protein is a highly conserved viral capsid protein. In addition to its role in viral particle assembly, the core protein seems to exert multiple biologic functions on host cells, including gene transcriptional regulation,21 apoptosis,22,23 alteration of IFN signaling,24,25 cell transformation,26,27 and interference with lipid metabolism.28 Many of these biologic effects of the core protein are thought to provide a survival advantage to the virus.
The E1/E2 proteins are glycoproteins on the viral surface. These envelope proteins have attracted great interest because of their potential use in the development of an HCV vaccine.29,30 The E2 region is known to be hypervariable, however, which creates significant problems for the generation of effective neutralizing antibodies. Recent experiments have demonstrated that E1/E2 proteins can form pseudoviral particles and that these particles are capable of eliciting antibody responses.30-32 Interestingly, it has also been reported that E2 can interact with the cellular protein PKR, a key signaling molecule in IFN-induced antiviral pathways.33

The p7 protein is located between the structural and nonstructural proteins. This protein is embedded in the cellular membrane and functions as an ion channel. In a chimpanzee study, a virus with p7 mutations could not establish infection,34 indicating the essential role of this protein in the viral life cycle.

The viral NS2 protein is a serine protease responsible for the cleavage of NS2/3 and is an integral membrane protein. NS2 can be phosphorylated by protein kinase CK2 and is involved in the modulation of cell apoptosis and transcription.35 NS3/4A is responsible for most of the nonstructural protein processing. Recently, NS3/4A was implicated in the modulation of host cellular functions. It was reported that HCV NS3 promoted caspase-8-mediated apoptosis.36 Interestingly, NS3/4 has been shown to interfere with the host innate immune system.37,38 NS5A is a membrane-associated protein. It has a structural basis for interacting with other proteins and viral RNAs.39-41 NS5A is phosphorylated by cellular serine kinases, including MEK1, MKK6, AKT, p70S6K, and cAMP-dependent protein kinase A-a.42-46 In addition, NS5A appears to have the capacity to modulate multiple cellular functions, including cell transformation, transcriptional regulation, and apoptosis. NS5A also interacts with other cellular factors to result in the suppression of IFN-induced antiviral efficacy.47
NS5B is an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase responsible for viral RNA replication. The protein's structure bears the typical "right hand" polymerase domain.48-50 The precise molecular process of NS5B-mediated RNA replication remains to be defined, but replication complexes composed of multiple proteins appear to be involved.51,52 Interestingly, a cellular replication cofactor, cyclophilin A, can enhance the RNA binding activity of NS5B, and cyclosporine exhibits anti-HCV activity through this mechanism.53

Although the molecular details underlying the entry of HCV into the host cell are unknown, CD81 seems to be a key receptor component mediating viral entry.54,55 CD81 alone is not sufficient to convert nonpermissive cells to allow HCV entry, however, as demonstrated in cell culture and in CD81-transgenic mice; such animals expressing human CD81 were not susceptible to HCV infection.56,57 It is believed that other cofactors in association with CD81 act to coordinate the entry of HCV into the host cells.58 One viral protein that is likely essential for host cell binding is E2, which has been demonstrated to bind CD81 both in vitro and in vivo.59 Other potential receptors include low-density lipoprotein, negatively charged glycosaminoglycans, and human scavenger receptor class B type 1.60,61 An additional host cell molecule that was recently identified to be important for HCV entry is the tight junction protein Claudin-1 (CLDN1). The expression of CLDN1 in several nonpermissive cell lines allowed viral entry, and siRNA silencing of CLDN1 expression in permissive hepatoma cells reduced HCV infection and mutagenesis. Furthermore, antibody blocking studies with tagged versions of CLDN1 demonstrated that the first extracellular loop of CLDN1 (EC1) is an essential coreceptor during one or more stages of the HCV entry process.62 Recent studies have also identified occludin (OCLN), an integral tight junction (TJ) protein, as another key factor for HCV entry.63

The hallmark of HCV infection is the establishment of persistent viral infection. The mechanisms underlying this remain unclear. Many lines of evidence appear to support the idea that HCV infection is noncytopathic. Several studies, including histologic examination of liver biopsies, have shown that many HCV carriers have high titer virus expression and normal liver enzyme levels but little or no liver damage.64-68 The course of varying degrees of hepatitis, whether to resolution or chronic infection, seems to be controlled at the level of the host immune response to virus-infected hepatocytes. It must be noted, however, that the majority of the data examining the relationship between host immune response and disease progression have been derived from patient populations with chronic infection, in which cases the virus and host hepatocytes had coevolved for some time. It remains to be determined whether HCV can exert cytopathic effects on naive hepatocytes during the initial viral exposure. Understanding how HCV establishes persistent infection is crucial for future strategies to control this disease.
Over the past decade, many mechanisms by which HCV may establish chronicity have been proposed.3,69 These mechanisms include virus-encoded anti-host immune strategies, virus-induced immunologic tolerance, viral escape mutations, molecular mimicry, and decreased effectiveness of antiviral cytokines. In recent years, experimental evidence has suggested that virus-encoded, anti-host strategies play an essential role in the establishment of persistent viral infection (Fig. 4).70 All mammalian nucleated cells have an innate capacity to respond to a viral infection through the production of type I IFNs or other inflammatory cytokines.71-73 This defense system has been extensively studied, leading to a wealth of knowledge on the molecular basis of this innate immune system.
Fig. 4
Molecular processes that signal the host response to hepatitis C virus infection (Adapted from Gale M Jr, et al. Nature 2005;436:939-945).70

FACTORS IMPACTING TREATMENT RESPONSE The viral factors that have been demonstrated to play a role in the response to IFN-based therapy include genotype and viral load. Patients with low baseline viremia (below 400,000 IU/mL) are more likely to respond to therapy than patients with high baseline viremia.74 Numerous host factors can influence treatment outcomes, including age, sex, race, weight, liver fibrosis, steatosis, and insulin resistance. Unfortunately, most host factors cannot be altered (age, sex, race, fibrosis), and those that can be altered may not be associated with an improved sustained viral response (SVR). A recently uncovered example of the influence of host factors on SVR is insulin resistance, the presence of which prior to treatment leads to a dramatic reduction in SVR rates.75 Insulin resistance seems to be involved in decreased sensitivity to interferon and could block intracellular interferon signaling. Recently, a new and powerful host variable was found using genome-wide association studies. A genetic polymorphism near the IL-28B gene region, which encodes for interferon lambda, has been closely linked to the IFN response. Patients with the CC allele have a very high SVR compared to those with a T-containing allele (Fig. 5).76 The IL-28B polymorphism influences virologic responses and relapse rates and has become the most powerful pretreatment predictor of SVR.77 In fact, with the era of direct antiviral therapies close at hand, testing for this polymorphism will be critical in determining who should be treated immediately and who should wait for improved treatment regimens. Patients who have the favorably responding CC IL-28B genotype have a high likelihood of attaining SVR and, in the absence of other concerns regarding their candidacy for therapy, should be considered candidates for standard PEG-IFN and RBV therapy. In contrast, patients with the non-CC IL-28B genotype, especially if other markers of poor response are present (e.g., high viral load, insulin resistance, and African American ancestry), are unlikely to achieve SVR and should consider waiting for improved response rates with direct antivirals.78,79
Fig. 5
Percentage of sustained virologic response (SVR) by rs12979860 genotypes (Adapted from Ge D, et al . Nature 2009; 461:399-401).76

TREATMENT CANDIDATES Antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C is currently recommended for patients who 1) are older than 18 years, 2) have positive findings for HCV antibodies and serum HCV RNA, 3) have liver biopsy findings consistent with a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis, although a biopsy is not essential, and 4) have no contraindications for treatment. PEG-IFN and RBV cannot be used in patients with decompensated cirrhosis, severe depression, or cardiopulmonary disease.

DEFINITION OF VIRAL RESPONSE PATTERNS AND ASSOCIATED SVR The monitoring of on-treatment viral responses has become a vital aspect of treatment regimens and allows one to predict the treatment response, to consider therapy adjustments, and to develop stopping rules governing cessation of therapy. A clear relationship has been established between the time to viral negativity and SVR. Patients who initially achieve serum viral negativity by week 4 (RVR) or week 12 (cEVR) have 91% and 60% to 72% SVR rates, respectively, following 48 weeks of therapy. Patients who decrease their viral loads by 2 logs following 12 weeks of treatment and who achieve viral negativity by week 24 are referred to as slow responders and have much lower rates of SVR (35% to 45%). Patients who do not achieve a 2-log reduction by week 12 or viral negativity by week 24 have only a 2% chance of achieving SVR with therapy, and treatments are therefore typically stopped.80 On-treatment viral response definitions related to week-4, -12, and -24 HCV RNA determinations and their relationships to SVR are shown below (Figs 6 and ​and77):

Fig. 6
Graphic display of virological responses (Adapted from AASLD Practice Guideline: Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment of Hepatitis C. An Update).149
Fig. 7
Rates of viral clearance predict sustained virologic response in patients with PEG-RBV treatment (Adapted from Ferenci P, et al. J Hepatol 2005;43:425-433).80
Rapid virological response (RVR): HCV RNA negative (<50 IU/mL) after 4 weeks of therapy
Early virological response (EVR): viral response at 12 weeks, subdivided into:
Partial EVR (pEVR): HCV RNA >2-log drop, but still detectable at week 12
Complete EVR (cEVR): no RVR, but HCV RNA <50 IU/mL at week 12
Nonresponse: persistent or inadequate reduction in HCV RNA during therapy, subdivided into:
Null response: either <1-log decrease in HCV RNA at week 4 or <2-log decrease in HCV RNA by week 12
Partial response: greater than a 2-log decrease by week 12, but continued viral positivity at week 24
Partial and null responses are associated with <5% likelihood for SVR and have been accepted as a general stopping rule.

TREATMENT 1. Goals of treatment
The primary goal of chronic HCV treatment is a SVR, which is defined as undetectable serum HCV RNA levels 6 months after treatment cessation. For patients to achieve this goal, however, three independent milestones must be sequentially achieved. The first of these is that the patient must achieve a virologic response and have undetectable HCV RNA levels during treatment. It is fairly evident but rarely stated that patients without a virologic response cannot possibly achieve SVR. The second step is that the patient must maintain this response by maintaining undetectable HCV RNA levels throughout the duration of therapy. With few exceptions, patients who experience breakthrough and become HCV RNA-positive during treatment do not achieve SVR. The final step for SVR is that the patient must not relapse following treatment.

2. Response-guided therapy The current effective treatment for chronic HCV infection is a combination of peginterferon and ribavirin.81,82 The term EVR refers to a 2-log decline in HCV RNA levels from the pretreatment baseline or undetectable HCV RNA levels within 12 weeks of treatment initiation.81,83,84 Approximately 80% of patients with genotype 1 and virtually all patients with genotypes 2 or 3 achieve an EVR.80,81,83-86 Patients without EVR rarely if ever achieve SVR.80,81,83,84,86 These patients are referred to as having a null response.87 At the Second National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference on the Management of HCV, it was recommended that all patients infected with genotype 1 should undergo HCV RNA testing at baseline and at week 12.83,84 Patients without EVR (a null response) should cease treatment because they cannot achieve SVR. It was further recommended that all genotype 1-infected patients showing EVR should continue treatment for 48 weeks and that all patients infected with genotypes 2 and 3 should simply be treated for 24 weeks.81,83,84

Defining the time when HCV RNA first becomes undetectable in the patient is critically important in the management of HCV treatment because this measurement is directly related to the likelihood of SVR.80 Patients in whom HCV RNA is undetectable within 4 weeks of initiating treatment are referred to as having a RVR. Approximately 15% of patients infected with genotype 1 and 66% of patients infected with genotypes 2 and 3 achieve RVR.80,85 These patients are exquisitely sensitive to treatment; they achieve SVR at a rate of 90% regardless of their genotype and the type of therapy they receive.80,85 In a retrospective analysis of a large clinical trial database, patients infected with genotype 1 and showing RVR had a 90% likelihood of achieving SVR whether treated with peginterferon and full-dose ribavirin, a lower dose of ribavirin, standard interferon and ribavirin, or even peginterferon monotherapy.80,88 Shortening the duration of therapy from 48 to 24 weeks also appeared to be effective in achieving high rates of SVR in genotype 1-infected patients showing RVR (Fig. 8).88 These observations have significant implications for peginterferon and ribavirin dosing. Because patients with RVR are highly responsive to treatment, the primary response to adverse events in these patients should include reducing the dose of peginterferon or ribavirin and not adding growth factors or other adjuvant therapies.
Fig. 8
End-of-treatment and sustained virological responses in patients with a rapid virological response (undetectable HCV RNA) at week 4. The number of patients in each group is presented at the base of each bar (Adapted from Jensen DM, et al. Hepatology 2006;43:954-960). (more ...)

The later during treatment that a patient's HCV RNA becomes undetectable, the lower the likelihood of SVR.80 Patients infected with genotype 1 for whom the HCV RNA becomes undetectable between treatment weeks 4 and 12 have an SVR rate of approximately 66%, but those for whom the HCV RNA becomes undetectable between weeks 12 and 24 have an SVR rate of only 45%. The low SVR rate in slow responders occurs because of a higher rate of relapse. Genotype 1-infected patients with undetectable HCV RNA levels between weeks 12 and 24 have been referred to as "slow to respond," and recent studies have demonstrated that prolonging the duration of treatment in these patients from 48 to 72 weeks can significantly reduce relapse rates.89,90 This treatment schedule would obviously enhance the likelihood of SVR. Patients infected with genotypes 2 and 3 in whom HCV RNA is not undetectable after week 4 have an SVR rate of only 49%,85 and a recent retrospective analysis suggested that prolonging treatment in these patients could also reduce relapse.

3. Breakthrough and relapse Two additional patterns of virologic response are important to recognize: breakthrough and relapse. Breakthrough is characterized by initially undetectable serum HCV RNA levels during treatment and a reappearance of serum HCV RNA despite ongoing treatment. Patients with relapse achieve and maintain undetectable HCV RNA serum levels throughout treatment but experience a reappearance of serum HCV RNA after treatment is discontinued. Common reasons for breakthrough and relapse include premature termination or temporary interruption of peginterferon or ribavirin.91

4. Dose regimens The recommended starting doses for the two peginterferons aim to achieve the highest overall SVR rates. These doses were derived by balancing response and discontinuation rates. Because most patients respond to the current starting dosages of peginterferon (180 mg/wk for peginterferon alfa-2a and 1.5 mg/kg/wk for peginterferon alfa-2b), it is not appropriate to initiate treatment with higher doses of these medications. The major limitation to using higher doses of interferon or peginterferon is the incidence of adverse events, which increases with increasing dose and causes patients to discontinue treatment.92 In contrast, it is reasonable to consider escalating the dose of peginterferon or to switch to high doses of daily interferon in patients with suboptimal responses who could tolerate such treatment strategies.
The treatment of chronic HCV with peginterferon and ribavirin is associated with numerous adverse events.81,82 The most common of these can be classified as systemic flu-like symptoms, psychiatric manifestations, autoimmune reactions, and hematologic toxicities. Although adverse events can be successfully managed in many cases, approximately 20% to 40% of patients require that the dose of peginterferon or ribavirin be reduced or temporarily interrupted. In 10% to 14% of patients, adverse events are so severe that treatment must be discontinued.81,82 Higher doses of peginterferon and ribavirin have been associated with a greater incidence of adverse events.92-96

The need to alter peginterferon or ribavirin dosing in response to adverse events may have a negative impact on SVR. Two studies have clearly demonstrated that when the dose of peginterferon is reduced to less than 80% of the initial dose within the first 12 to 20 weeks of treatment, the ability of the patient to achieve EVR and to attain undetectable HCV RNA levels is significantly impaired.86,97 This is consistent with observations that achieving a virologic response depends highly on the dose of interferon98 or peginterferon92-94 and depends far less on the ribavirin dose.95,99 Because achieving a virologic response is the first essential milestone in achieving SVR, any reduction in the response of HCV RNA levels has a negative impact on the SVR rate.

The impacts of independent reductions in peginterferon or ribavirin doses were examined in patients with prior nonresponse to interferon (with or without ribavirin) undergoing retreatment with peginterferon and ribavirin in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) clinical trial.97 This study included more than 900 patients infected with genotype 1, making it the largest and most comprehensive analysis of dose reduction performed to date. Reducing the total cumulative dose of peginterferon to less than 80% of the initial dose led to a decline in virologic response and SVR. In contrast, reducing the dose of ribavirin had no impact on virologic response or SVR as long as patients remained on full-dose peginterferon and did not have interrupted or prematurely terminated ribavarin dosing.
Several studies have shown that the reappearance of HCV RNA after SVR is extremely rare (less than 1%),100-102 but close follow-up is recommended.103

5. Treatment of hepatitis C in special situations 1) Acute hepatitis C
The identification of acute HCV infection represents a unique window of opportunity for achieving high rates of viral clearance. An observation period of 12 weeks is recommended for patients with symptomatic hepatitis to allow for the spontaneous viral clearance that can occur at high rates in this subgroup. Asymptomatic patients may be treated immediately, as they are less likely to undergo spontaneous clearance. Treatment durations can vary from 24 to 48 weeks, but results from a recent analysis of 12-week treatments are encouraging, especially in those who achieve RVR. Variables associated with improved response rates include female gender, the presence of symptomatic hepatitis, younger age, non-genotype 1 infection, and RVR. Based on the current data, a management algorithm is proposed (Fig. 9)104 to guide the clinician in making treatment decisions. Of course, adherence to the prescribed therapy is extremely important in ensuring successful outcomes.

Fig. 9
Treatment algorithm for the management of acute hepatitis C (Adapted from Maheshwari A, et al. Clin Liver Dis 2010;14:169-176).104

2) HIV/HCV coinfection Because of their shared transmission routes, the prevalence of HCV and HIV coinfection ranges from 10% to 40%, or even as high as 80%, in highly exposed populations.105-107 Current estimates suggest that nearly 10 million individuals worldwide and 300,000 in the United States are coinfected. Because decreased mortality from opportunistic infections has been achieved with the use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), liver disease has emerged as a serious cause of morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected patients.108 HIV infection leads to increased HCV-RNA levels and faster progression of liver fibrosis. These complications consequently lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and HCC.109,110

Several studies with pegylated IFN alfa and ribavirin have been reported.111-114 Similar to studies of patients infected with HCV alone, these trials show improved virologic response rates with the use of pegylated IFN alfa plus ribavirin compared with unmodified IFN alfa plus ribavirin. These studies also show lower response rates for patients infected with genotype 1. In addition, the early virologic response (undetectable HCV RNA level or >2-log reduction in HCV RNA levels by week 12) also seemed to be a helpful predictor.

As with monoinfected patients, an important issue in HCV treatment is determining the appropriate time to initiate treatment in patients coinfected with HIV/HCV. When patients present with decompensated liver disease, complications of HCV therapy make treatment unsafe. Effective screening and early intervention are therefore critical. Treatment must also be planned in concert with a patient's HIV physician to ensure that the patient is at a stable point in his or her HIV antiretroviral regimen. In recent HIV/HCV studies, more than 80% of patients were receiving antiretroviral therapy, and HIV RNA was undetectable in most of these patients. In addition, mean CD4 counts were greater than 400×106/L in all trials. Considering these positive patient characteristics, these represented optimal HIV/HCV populations, but poor tolerance and adherence still emerged in these favorable patient groups.111-114

The risk-benefit analysis of HCV treatment in patients with HIV/HCV remains a matter of debate, and the safety and tolerability of therapy are therefore important concerns. HAART can be associated with hepatotoxicity ranging from elevated ALT levels to hepatic decompensation.115,116 Symptomatic mitochondrial toxicity (acute pancreatitis, lactic acidosis, or hyperlactatemia) has been reported in HIV-infected patients receiving HAART and ribavirin, and it is increased when the regimen includes didanosine.113 Chung and colleagues111 reported a clinically significant pancreatitis in only one patient but a lipase elevation in 18 subjects. Another important issue with respect to HIV/HCV comorbidity relates to the additive side effects observed during HCV and HIV therapies. Anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia are common with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin treatments and may be exacerbated in the setting of antiretroviral therapy. Torriani et al.112 reported 37 cases (13%) of neutropenia (<500/mm3) in recipients receiving peginterferon alfa-2a plus placebo and 31 cases (11%) in recipients receiving peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin; five subjects withdrew from treatment because of severe anemia. If these side effects lead to dose reductions of pegylated IFN and ribavirin, treatment with growth factors or even the selection of different antiretroviral agents may need to be considered.

3) Renal failure Chronic HCV infection is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies in patients with ESRD in the United States is significantly higher than that in the general population and is estimated to be between 8% and 10%.117,118 The natural history of HCV in patients who have ESRD, however, remains controversial. Studies of HCV infection in ESRD patients report mild to moderate disease, ALT levels that are usually within the normal range, and low proportions of patients with advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis.119,120 Mortality rates of patients with both HCV and ESRD, however, appear to be higher than rates for either ESRD or HCV alone. Stehman-Breen et al.121 reported that patients with HCV and ESRD are at an increased risk of death compared to patients with ESRD but not HCV, with an adjusted relative risk of mortality of 1.78 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01 to 3.14; p=0.045). A prospective cohort study followed 1,470 Japanese patients receiving hemodialysis for 6 years.122 The mortality rate was higher in patients with HCV infection than in those without HCV infection (33.0% vs 23.2%, p<0.01). HCC and cirrhosis were more frequent in patients with HCV infection.

Because of the relatively high rate of comorbidity between these two diseases, there is significant a motivation to consider the treatment of patients with both ESRD and HCV infection. This impetus is heightened if kidney transplantation is being considered. HCV infection is associated with decreased survival of the patient and the graft following kidney transplantation.123,124 Fabrizi et al.125 examined the impact of the development of posttransplantation diabetes mellitus on patient and graft survival following kidney transplantation. In a systematic review of 10 studies, they found an incidence of posttransplantation diabetes mellitus of between 7.9% and 50%. They also reported that this complication was more common in patients with HCV infections (odds ratio, 3.97; 95% CI, 1.83 to 8.61).125 Initial studies of HCV following kidney transplantation revealed that unmodified IFN alfa monotherapy improved ALT levels and led to a loss of HCV RNA but no predictable SVR.126-128 Acute cellular rejection, renal failure, and even graft loss were increased in patients treated with IFN alfa, leading to concerns regarding HCV treatment following kidney transplantation. As a result, recent attention has focused on treatment prior to kidney transplantation.

Many studies have been published on the use of IFN therapy for the treatment of HCV infection in patients with ESRD. Russo et al.129 conducted a systematic review of literature published between 1986 and 2001 and included data from 11 studies. In 213 patients treated with unmodified IFN alfa, SVR was 33% overall (95% CI, 21% to 51%) and was 26% for patients infected with genotype 1 (95% CI, 15% to 37%). Another meta-analysis by Meyers et al.130 included 17 studies. The overall SVR was 40% in patients receiving unmodified IFN alfa monotherapy. These pooled response rates with unmodified IFN alfa monotherapy are substantially higher than those seen in patients without renal disease. The most salient feature of these studies is the high rate of serious adverse events. Early discontinuation rates averaged at 26%. Dose modification rates were high, and adverse events were severe and included pulmonary edema, cerebral hemorrhage, cardiomyopathy, lymphoma, and acute pancreatitis. Several studies of patients with comorbid ESRD and HCV used combination therapy with unmodified IFN alfa and ribavirin. Ribavirin is cleared by the kidney and causes a dose-related, potentially severe hemolysis.130

IMPACT OF TREATMENT Durable loss of detectable virus from the serum is observed in almost all patients who achieve SVR (i.e., >99%). Moreover, there is no consistent evidence of residual HCV RNA in the liver or extrahepatic sites following SVR.131 Most studies have also demonstrated histologic improvement, with up to 62% of patients achieving normal histological results after demonstrating SVR132 and a similar percentage showing a regression of fibrosis of up to 0.8 Metavir units per year.133 In addition to histologic improvement, several studies report that patients with SVR have a reduced risk of long-term HCV complications. Evidence overwhelmingly shows that achieving SVR increases the possibility of positive outcomes, including a reduced risk of HCC and decompensation and improved survival.134-136 In addition, a recent study by Bruno shows that achievement of SVR prevents the development of esophageal varices (0% in SVR vs 32% in untreated subjects over 12 years of follow-up).134 These studies present a clear picture of the striking reduction in the risk of complications of liver disease following SVR.

NEW TREATMENTS FOR CHRONIC HEPATITIS C The depth of our understanding of the HCV life cycle has significantly expanded over the previous decade and has led to multiple new anti-HCV therapies now under investigation. Initially, such oral specifically targeted antiviral therapies for hepatitis C (STAT-C) drugs will most likely be added to current PEG-RBV therapies and could lead to improved response rates and shorter therapy durations. Improved SVR rates could be achieved with new HCV-specific inhibitors that target the NS3/4A and NS5B polymerases. Recent trials reported SVR rates on the order of 61% to 68% and 67% to 75% following combination treatments of standard of care (SOC) and the protease inhibitors telaprevir (Fig. 10)79 and boceprevir,137 respectively, in patients with HCV genotype 1 infection. Future trials will need to evaluate the use of "cocktails" of oral agents to determine whether viral resistance can be minimized with HCV as it has been with HIV and HBV. Resistance could be avoided by either combining two or more specific inhibitors with non-verlapping resistance profiles, such as protease inhibitors with nucleoside and/or non-nucleoside inhibitors, or combining HCV-specific inhibitors with non-HCV-specific inhibitors, such as cyclophilin inhibitors. Although these therapy options are not yet available, we now have the ability to adopt improved strategies to maximize response rates with available therapies and to tailor treatment durations based on individual viral kinetic responses.138
Fig. 10
Telaprevir increases sustained virologic response rates in patients with hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection (Data from McHutchison JG, et al. N Engl J Med 2009;360:1827-1838).79

SCREENING FOR HEPATOCELLULAR CARCINOMA The association of chronic hepatitis C with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is well documented. Most studies describing this association are retrospective case-control studies, retrospective cohort studies, or prospective cohort studies. Studies in Italy have described the incidence of hepatitis C cirrhosis to be 3.7 in 100,000 per year,139 the relative risk of HCC in patients positive for anti-HCV antibodies to be 21.3 compared with controls,140 and the odds ratio of developing HCC if positive for anti-HCV to be 69.140 In two studies, 71% of HCC patients were positive for the anti-HCV.140,141 A study in the United States showed a relative risk of 4.8 and an attributable risk of 47% for HCV patients to develop HCC.142 One Japanese study showed a relative risk of 53 of developing HCC if patients were anti-HCV-positive. In this study, the prevalence of anti-HCV as a risk factor for HCC was 78%.143 Studies in Italy, France, Germany, and other countries have reached similar conclusions.144-146 A single large-scale, prospective, controlled cohort study showed that HCV infection conferred a 20-fold increased risk for the development of HCC.147 The high incidence of HCC in patients with chronic hepatitis C-related cirrhosis has led to the introduction of screening for HCC in this population. Patients with hepatitis C without cirrhosis are not required to undergo HCC screening. An appropriate guiding principle is that the best available screening test should be chosen and applied regularly. Combined use of AFP and ultrasonography increases detection rates. Guidelines issued by the American Association for Study of Liver Diseases148 suggest a 6- to 12-month interval. Once an abnormal screening has been identified and patients enter into enhanced follow-up, the interval between evaluations should be shorter.

SUMMARY 1) The primary goal of treatment of chronic HCV is the attainment of SVR, defined as undetectable serum HCV-RNA levels at 6 months after treatment cessation. Once SVR is achieved, improved histological and clinical benefits follow (e.g., lower rates of decompensation, hepatocellular carcinoma, and mortality).
2) The viral factors that influence the response to IFN-based therapy include genotype and viral load. The IL28B genotype, a powerful host factor in determining IFN responsiveness, will eventually be used to help stratify patients for treatment.
3) The evaluation of on-treatment viral response allows for individualized treatment durations. Patients who demonstrate RVR are particularly sensitive to treatment. Shortening the duration of the therapy from 48 to only 24 weeks also seems to be effective in achieving high rates of SVR in genotype 1-infected patients who demonstrate RVR. Patients without EVR (a null response) should cease treatment because they have little chance of achieving SVR.
4) Improved rates of SVR can be achieved with new HCV-specific inhibitors against the NS3/4A and NS5B polymerases. An expanded understanding of the host proteins that enable HCV replication will allow for the identification of additional targets, eventually permitting the design of IFN-sparing regimens.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS The addition of a protease inhibitor to a backbone of PEG/ribavirin will emerge as the new standard of care for treatment-naïve patients with genotype 1 HCV or for patients with prior non-response or relapse to PEG/ribavirin treatment.

Two directacting antivirals (DAAs) (a protease inhibitor and a nucleoside polymerase inhibitor) could be combined for successful, short-term treatments.

It is not unreasonable to expect that sufficient agents will be available to permit such a combination within the next 5 to 10 years.

We can anticipate the introduction of strategies that add a second agent to the PEG/ribavirin/protease inhibitor backbone, particularly in difficult-to-treat patients, although the limits of tolerability are clearly being tested.

Finally, the use of genetic testing for SNPs in the IL28B gene, which has been shown to have a powerful predictive value for SVR in patients treated with PEG/ribavirin, will also likely influence treatment decisions. Genotype information will potentially permit abbreviated courses of therapy in those with a favorable genotype or will indicate a deferment of IFN-based therapy for those with the unfavorable IL28B genotype. The predictive power of IL28B testing, however, will require reconfiguration in the wake of new DAA-based therapy.149


Copyright © 2011 The Korean Society of Gastroenterology, the Korean Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the Korean Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Korean College of Helicobacter and Upper Gastrointestinal Research, the Korean Association for the Study of Intestinal Diseases, Korean Association for the Study of the Liver and Korean Society of Pancreatobiliary Diseases