Antiviral therapy can prevent recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and extend the lives of patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB), according to a study conducted by researchers from the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Thomas Jefferson University.

The study, led by Hie-Won Hann, MD, professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, adds to findings from previous studies that have shown that antiviral treatment reduces the incidence of HCC in patients with CHB.

Included in the study were 15 CHB patients who received local ablation of a single HCC tumor that was less than 4 cm. The control group included six patients who were diagnosed between 1991 and 1997, prior to the development of antiviral therapy. For the study group, researchers used nine patients diagnosed between 2000 and 2004 who began ongoing antiviral therapy with lamivudine immediately after HCC diagnosis.

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Researchers found that patients who received the antiviral therapy maintained undetectable hepatitis B virus in serum and continued the therapy. Specifically, the median survival in patients who received antiviral therapy after their HCC diagnosis was 60 months. However, for patients in the control group who did not receive antiviral therapy, the median survival was 12.5 months.

Dr. Hann and colleagues reported that the longest survivors, two patients who came with HCC in 2000, continue to do well and have been free of cancer for more than 10 years.

“The other option for these patients is liver transplantation, which carries its own risks,” said Robert Coben, MD, associate professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, who was involved in the study. “This is an attractive alternative for this patient population.”

The findings were published in International Journal of Cancer (2010 Apr 14. [Epub ahead of print]).