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Cure for hepatitis C announced by VCU researcher

RICHMOND, Va. (May 21, 2007) The use of peginterferon alone, or in combination with ribavirin, points to a cure for hepatitis C, the leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for liver transplant, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher said today.

Mitchell Shiffman, M.D., professor in the VCU School of Medicine, and chief of hepatology and medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, is one of the lead investigators in the study, which was presented at the 38th annual Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington, D.C. VCU was among about 40 sites worldwide studying pegylated interferon alfa-2a, manufactured by Roche Inc.

Nearly all -- 99 percent of patients with hepatitis C who were treated successfully with peginterferon alone, or in combination with ribavirin, had no detectable virus up to seven years later. Researchers say this data validates the use of the word "cure" when describing hepatitis C treatment as successful treatment is defined as having undetectable hepatitis C virus in the blood six months following treatment.

"We at VCU are encouraged by this data because it is rare in the treatment of life-threatening viral diseases that we can tell patients they may be cured," Shiffman said. "In hepatitis C today, we are able to help some patients achieve an outcome that effectively enables them to put their disease behind them."

The results are based on a long-term follow-up study designed to determine if the virus re-emerges in patients who have achieved treatment success. The study reviewed 997 patients, either mono-infected with chronic HCV or co-infected HCV and HIV, who achieved a sustained viral response (SVR) following treatment with either Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) monotherapy or combination therapy with Pegasys and ribavirin.

After successful treatment, researchers monitored serum levels of HCV once a year f
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Contact: Anne Buckley
albuckley@vcu.edu
804-828-6052
Virginia Commonwealth University
21-May-2007


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