Public Release:  Antiviral therapy may prevent liver cancer in hepatitis B patients

Henry Ford Health System

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IMAGE: This is Stuart Gordon, M.D., Henry Ford Health System gastroenterologist and the study's lead investigator. view more

Credit: Henry Ford Hospital

DETROIT - Researchers have found that antiviral therapy may be successful in preventing hepatitis B virus from developing into the most common form of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

That was the finding of a study published in the May issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Investigators from Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., and Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu, Hawaii and Portland, Ore. participated in the study, along with investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

According to the first-of-its-kind analysis of more than 2,600 adult participants with hepatitis B, those treated with antiviral therapy had a significantly lower occurrence of HCC during a five-year follow up period. Overall, 3 percent of patients developed HCC during the study's timeframe. But patients who received antiviral therapy were 60 percent less likely to develop HCC than untreated patients.

"The results of this study allow us to reassure our patients that we are not just treating their viral levels, but that antiviral therapy may actually lessen their chance of developing liver cancer," said the study's lead investigator, Henry Ford Health System's Stuart C. Gordon, M.D., who worked closely with Henry Ford Senior Scientist Mei Lu in Detroit.

HCC accounts for the most liver cancers in the United States, typically occurs in people age 50 or older and is more common in men. If the cancer cannot be removed, it is usually fatal in three to six months. In most cases, HCC is caused by scarring in the liver - cirrhosis - which can be a result of alcohol abuse, hepatitis B or C, chronic inflammation of the liver or an iron overload.

"This study was one of the first to address antiviral therapy and its efficacy in preventing hepatitis B from developing into liver cancer," said Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., senior scientist and investigator for the Geisinger site. "With this information, clinicians can begin to prescribe antiviral therapy for hepatitis B patients with the goal of preventing a common and dangerous form of cancer."

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About Geisinger Health System

Geisinger Health System is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development of innovative care models such as ProvenHealth Navigator® and ProvenCare®. As one of the nation's largest rural health services organizations, Geisinger serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeast Pennsylvania. The physician-led system is comprised of more than 21,000 employees, including a 1,100-member multi-specialty group practice, eight hospital campuses, two research centers and a 467,000-member health plan, all of which leverage an estimated $7.4 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy. The health system and the health plan have repeatedly garnered national accolades for integration, quality and service. In addition to fulfilling its patient care mission, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit http://www.geisinger.org, or follow the latest Geisinger news and more on Twitter and Facebook.

About Henry Ford Health System

Henry Ford Health System, one of the country's largest and most comprehensive integrated health care systems, is a national leader in clinical care, research and education. The system includes the 1,200-member Henry Ford Medical Group, seven hospitals, 34 outpatient medical centers, Health Alliance Plan (a health insurance and wellness company), Henry Ford Physician Network, a 150-site ambulatory network and many other health-related entities throughout southeast Michigan, providing a full continuum of care. The health system also is a major economic driver in Michigan and employs more than 23,000 people. Henry Ford is a 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient. The health system is led by CEO Nancy Schlichting. To learn more, visit http://www.HenryFord.com or follow us on Facebook or @HenryFordNews on Twitter.

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