Development of hepatocellular carcinoma in a non-cirrhotic, long-term responder to antiviral therapy, chronic hepatitis C patient: what kind of surveillance?

Authors Elena Bertolini, Fabio Bassi, Giovanni Fornaciari.


Hepatitis c virus (HCV) infection is one of the major causes of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Although predominant in cirrhotic HCV patients, the risk of HCC exists also in case of mere chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Thus the goal of the antiviral therapy is to obtain an early eradication of the HCV infection in order to reduce the risk of hepatocarcinogenesis. We report the case of a 61-year-old Caucasian male with CHC, who developed hemoperitoneum from HCC bleeding after having achieved sustained virological response (SVR). He underwent surgical resection and the histopathological examination showed a moderately-differentiated HCC in a slightly fibrotic liver. The patient has no tumor recurrence and keeps on doing well 18 months after surgery. This report, as many others, proves the existence of a residual risk of hepatocarcinogenesis in spite of obtaining an SVR in the absence of cirrhosis. Therefore, in our opinion, it is of primary importance to understand the underlying mechanisms of hepatocarcinogenesis and the major risk factors for HCC, in order to select those patients who most deserve a follow up. In this regard, we have proposed a different surveillance strategy according to the response to antiviral therapy, hepatic histology and the existence of one or more risk factors for HCC in SVR patients.

Keywords Hepatitis C virus, hepatocellular carcinoma, sustained virological response

Case Reports