People who are cured of hepatitis C after a course of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment do not have a higher risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), and probably have a reduced risk, studies from Italy and Canada presented at the 2016 AASLD Liver Meeting this week in Boston have shown.
However, Italian researchers also found that those people who did develop liver cancer during or shortly after antiviral treatment were more likely to develop an aggressive form of liver cancer, perhaps because of changes in immune surveillance in the liver as a result of treatment.
Hepatitis C infection can be cured with a course of DAA treatment, but eliminating the infection may not heal the liver sufficiently to prevent the development of liver cancer. Furthermore, there is evidence that people with cirrhosis previously treated for liver cancer have a high rate of recurrence of liver cancer. Two studies, conducted in Italy and Spain, both found that around 30% of people previously treated for liver cancer experienced a recurrence of liver cancer within a median of six months of completing hepatitis C treatment. Both research groups considered the rate of recurrence in their patients to be unusual and warned doctors to be on the lookout for liver cancer recurrence.