Patients with hepatitis B-related liver cancer who receive antiviral drugs after curative surgery have a lower risk of recurrence compared to those who do not receive antiviral therapy, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for over 500 functions, including the secretion of glucose, proteins, vitamins, and fats; the production of bile; the processing of hemoglobin; and detoxification of numerous substances. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer. Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is thought to account for more than half of liver cancer cases worldwide.
One of the major issues patients with HCC face after liver resection is tumor recurrence. Researchers from Taiwan conducted a nationwide cohort study to evaluate the relationship between antiviral therapy and the risk of tumor recurrence in patients with HBV-related HCC after curative surgery. The researchers used data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to identify 100,938 newly diagnosed HCC patients—and 4,569 HBV-related HCC patients who underwent curative surgery between 2003 and 2010.
Of the patients with HBV-related HCC, 518 were taking antiviral drugs (treated cohort) and 4,051 were not (untreated cohort). The researchers compared the risk of first tumor recurrence among the treated and untreated cohorts and found that patients in the treated cohort had a higher prevalence of liver cirrhosis, but a lower risk of HCC recurrence compared to the untreated cohort. The treated patients also had a lower risk of overall death. The treated cohort had a significantly lower 6-year recurrence rate—45.6 percent compared to 54.6 percent in the untreated cohort.
The researchers concluded that the use of antiviral therapy was associated with a lower risk of HCC recurrence among patients with HBV-related HCC after curative surgery.
 Wu CY, Chen YJ, Ho HJ, et al. Association between nucleoside analogues and risk of hepatitis B virus–related hepatocellular carcinoma recurrence following liver resection. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2012; 308(18): 1906-1913.