Gut Liver.  2021 May;15(3):430-439. 10.5009/gnl20074.

Partial Virological Response after 2 Years of Entecavir Therapy Increases the Risk of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Patients with Hepatitis B Virus-Associated Cirrhosis

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Gachon University Gil Medical Center, Gachon University College of Medicine, Incheon, Korea
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, Korea University Ansan Hospital, Ansan, Korea
  • 3Department of Internal Medicine, Konkuk University School of Medicine, and 4 Department of Internal Medicine, Korea University Guro Hospital, Seoul, Korea


The clinical significance of partial virological response (PVR) in patients undergoing antiviral therapy is not well known. This study investigated whether PVR after 2 years of entecavir (ETV) therapy is associated with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development in cirrhotic patients.
A total of 472 naïve patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated cirrhosis who were treated with ETV for at least 2 years were retrospectively enrolled. Clinical characteristics, laboratory data, PVR, and noninvasive fibrosis markers (aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio and FIB-4 index) at 2 years after ETV commencement were analyzed for HCC risk.
After excluding those who developed HCC within 2 years of ETV therapy, 359 patients (mean age, 51±10 years; male 64.3%) were examined. During a median follow-up of 82 months, 80 patients developed HCC. In the univariate analysis, older age (hazard ratio [HR], 1.056; p<0.001), PVR (HR, 2.536; p=0.002), higher aspartate aminotransferase (HR, 1.018; p=0.005), lower albumin level (HR, 0.463; p<0.001), lower platelet count (HR, 0.993; p=0.01), and higher FIB-4 index (HR, 1.141; p<0.001) at 2 years after ETV commencement were risk factors for HCC. In the multivariate analysis, older age (HR, 1.046; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.022 to 1.072; p<0.001), PVR (HR, 2.358; 95% CI, 1.310 to 4.245; p=0.004), and higher FIB-4 index (HR, 1.103; 95% CI, 1.035 to 1.177; p=0.003) were independent risk factors.
PVR and higher FIB-4 index after 2 years of ETV therapy were independent risk factors for HCC. Therefore, efforts to accomplish a complete virological response and reduce the FIB-4 index should be made.


Partial virological response; Entecavir; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Hepatitis B virus; Liver cirrhosis
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