Background: Successful treatment of hepatitis C reduces liver inflammation and fibrosis; however, patients remain at risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Aims: To identify risk factors for new-onset HCC in patients cured of hepatitis C. Methods: Imaging, histological, and clinical data on patients whose first HCC was diagnosed >12 months of post-SVR were analyzed. Histology of 20 nontumor tissues was analyzed in a blinded manner using the Knodel/Ishak/HAI system for necroinflammation and fibrosis/cirrhosis stage and the Brunt system for steatosis/steatohepatitis. Factors associated with post-SVR HCC were identified by comparison with HALT-C participants who did not develop post-SVR HCC. Results: Hepatocellular carcinoma was diagnosed in 54 patients (45 M/9F), a median of 6 years of post-SVR [interquartile range (IQR) =1.4-10y] at a median age of 61 years (IQR, 59–67). Approximately one-third lacked cirrhosis, and only 11% had steatosis on imaging. The majority (60%) had no steatosis/steatohepatitis in histopathology. The median HAI score was 3 (1.25–4), indicating mild necroinflammation. In a multivariable logistic regression model, post-SVR HCC was positively associated with non-Caucasian race (p = 0.03), smoking (p = 0.03), age > 60 years at HCC diagnosis (p = 0.03), albumin<3.5 g/dL (p = 0.02), AST/ALT>1 (p = 0.05), and platelets <100 × 103 cells/μL (p < 0.001). Alpha fetoprotein ≥4.75 ng/mL had 90% specificity and 71% sensitivity for HCC occurrence. Noncirrhotic patients had larger tumors (p = 0.002) and a higher prevalence of vascular invasion (p = 0.016) than cirrhotic patients. Conclusions: One-third of patients with post-SVR HCC did not have liver cirrhosis; most had no steatosis/steatohepatitis. Hepatocellular carcinomas were more advanced in noncirrhotic patients. Results support AFP as a promising marker of post-SVR HCC risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10175-10186
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2023


  • alpha-fetoprotein
  • hepatitis C virus
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • sustained virological response


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