Public Release: 

Novel biomarkers may provide guide to personalized hepatitis C therapy

American Gastroenterological Association

Bethesda, MD (May 13, 2015) -- A simple blood test can be used to predict which chronic hepatitis C patients will respond to interferon-based therapy, according to a report in the May issue of Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology,1 the basic science journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

"While highly effective direct-acting antivirals have become the new standard of care for patients with hepatitis C, these treatments come with a hefty price tag," said lead study author Philipp Solbach, MD, from Hannover Medical School, Niedersachsen, Germany. "There may still be a role for the more affordable interferon-based therapies, and with this new information, we can better assess which patients will respond to this less-expensive treatment."

The researchers studied a cohort of HCV-infected patients who received interferon-based therapies and found that levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood predicted the patient's response to treatment. LDL, commonly known as "bad cholesterol," is easily identified through blood testing, and can be used as a surrogate marker for oxidized LDL.

Once oxidized LDL was established as a marker of treatment response, the authors studied hepatitis C transmission from cell to cell using an in vitro culture system. They found that oxidized LDL inhibited cell-to-cell spread, suggesting a mechanism underlying the relationship between oxidized LDL and a sustained viral response to interferon therapy.

"The study provides important information about the mechanism whereby HCV infection occurs," added Rebecca G. Wells, MD, associate editor of Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology. "While direct-acting antivirals are coming to the forefront in HCV therapy, this study serves an important role in advancing our understanding of this complex virus."

This work raises the possibility that drugs that inhibit viral entry into cells may be useful add-ons to interferon therapy for hepatitis C virus; additionally, similar approaches may be effective for other chronic viral infections. Further studies testing entry-inhibiting drugs are needed.

Hepatitis C chronically infects about 160 million people worldwide, and is a major cause of illness and death from hepatocellular carcinoma and end-stage liver disease. Learn more about hepatitis on the AGA website.

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For more on this study, read the commentary in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology by Markus von Schaewen and Alex Ploss.

This study was funded by a grant from the Germany Center for Infection Research.

1 Solbach, Philipp, et al. Oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein Is a Novel Predictor of Interferon Responsiveness in Chronic Hepatitis C Infection, Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2015: 1(3): 285-294.e1, http://www.cmghjournal.org/article/S2352-345X(15)00058-2/fulltext

About the AGA Institute

The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include more than 16,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. http://www.gastro.org.

About Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology

CMGH is the newest peer-reviewed journal published by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). The mission of CMGH is to publish impactful digestive biology research that ranges from mechanisms of normal function to pathobiology and covers a broad spectrum of themes in gastroenterology, hepatology and pancreatology. The journal reports the latest advances in cell biology, immunology, physiology, microbiology, genetics and neurobiology of gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, and pancreatic health and disease. For more information, visit http://www.cmghjournal.org.

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