Antiviral therapy efficiently contributes to cancer treatment response in patients with hepatitis C virus infection and B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an analysis of previously published data revealed. The findings may change the way patients with lymphoma and hepatitis C are managed, advancing antiviral therapy as a first-line treatment option.
While epidemiological studies have long pointed to a possible link between hepatitis C virus infection and B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, such studies cannot, by definition, prove that the viral infection alters the development of cancer.
The most solid evidence of a virus infection potentially driving cancer development comes from observations of cancer regression after treatment with antiviral therapy.
Multiple studies are published on the topic, and researchers at Goethe-University Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, performed a meta-analysis, scrutinizing data from these studies.
The report, “The anti-lymphoma activity of antiviral therapy in HCV-associated B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas: a meta-analysis,” included 20 studies with a total of 254 patients simultaneously treated with antivirals and cancer therapy.
Researchers sought to identify potential correlations between responses to the two treatments. Overall, the lymphoma response rate through antiviral treatment was 73 percent. A strong correlation between lymphoma response and a beneficial virological response was also observed in 18 studies used to explore the correlation: 83 percent of patients who responded well to antiviral therapy also had a good lymphoma treatment response.
In contrast, in patients whom antiviral treatment failed to induce a sustained antiviral response, researchers noted a much lower response rate — 53 percent — to lymphoma treatment.
The research team also found that correlations tended to differ depending on whether the lymphoma was of marginal, or non-marginal, zone type. The response rate was 81 percent for marginal zone lymphomas, and 70 percent for non-marginal types, but the difference was not supported statistically.
This study contributes convincing evidence that cancer growth in B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is linked to hepatitis infection. The authors of the analysis, published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis, suggested that antiviral therapy be used as first-line treatment in patients where immediate conventional therapy is not justified, as this could potentially halt the progression of cancer.