Long-term administration of interferon-alpha in non-responder patients with chronic hepatitis C: follow-up of liver fibrosis over 5 years.

Improved Fibrosis Seen with Long-Term treatment (>1 year) in Cirrhotic Patients in IFN Non-Responders

J Viral Hepat 1999 Mar;6(2):125-133 
Guerret S, Desmouliere A, Chossegros P, Costa AM, Badid C, Trepo C, Grimaud JA, Chevallier M

Laboratoire d'Anatomie et Cytologie Pathologiques, Laboratoire Marcel Merieux, Lyon. 

In chronic hepatitis C, previous data have shown that short-term treatment with interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) can reduce collagen deposition in the liver independently of the viral response. The aim of this work was to determine, in non-responder patients, the long-term effect of IFN-alpha on liver fibrosis according to the total administered dose and the fibrotic stage. Fibrosis was investigated on liver biopsies from 24 non-responder patients with chronic hepatitis C retreated with successive courses of IFN-alpha. The degree of liver fibrosis was assessed on three successive biopsies, performed before IFN-alpha treatment and 1 and 5 years later, in 13 and 11 patients, respectively, treated for less (mean: 7.5 months, 313 MU) and more (mean: 21.8 months, 791 MU) than 1 year. For each biopsy, fibrosis was assessed using a histological semiquantitative fibrosis scoring system and by morphometry after picrosirius red staining. Regardless of the dose and duration of IFN-alpha therapy, a slight decrease of fibrosis was observed in patients 5 years after starting treatment. In cirrhotic patients, a short treatment induced an improvement followed by a relapse of fibrosis in 57%, and only 43% of patients showed constant collagen regression over the 5 years of follow-up. On the contrary, after prolonged therapy, a progressive and significant decrease occurred throughout the follow-up period in all patients (P = 0.045). Long-term treatment with IFN-alpha is therefore associated with regression of liver fibrosis, particularly in cirrhotic patients. These promising results need to be confirmed in a larger series of patients.