Patients with advanced liver fibrosis owing to chronic hepatitis C virus genotype 1 represent a difficult-to-treat group even if a protease inhibitor is added to pegylated interferon alpha and ribavirin. Therefore, only patients with a high chance of cure should be treated with interferon-based treatment.
Expression of IFNG, IFNLR1, and interferon-sensitive genes CXCL9, IFI16, IFI27, ISG15, and USP18 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells was assessed before and during the initial 12 weeks of treatment. The studied group consisted of 26 treatment-experienced patients of average age of 50 years with advanced liver fibrosis compared to seven healthy volunteers. Fourteen patients were treated with pegylated interferon alpha 2b, ribavirin, and boceprevir and 12 patients with telaprevir. The overall sustained virological response (SVR) rate was 69% (18/26).
A significant difference in the initial expression (median, interquartile range [IQR]) of CXCL9 2.9×, IQR: 1.7–12.4 vs 1.2×, IQR: 0.5–1.8; ( P=0.01) IFNG 7.3×, IQR: 1.7–32.6 vs 0.7×, IQR: 0.4–1.3; P=0.002 and USP18 3.7×, IQR: 2.1–7.7 vs 1.4×, IQR: 0.9–1.6; ( P=0.03) was found between the SVR and non-SVR groups. Expression of all analyzed genes was progressively increasing during the first 12 weeks of therapy, but a significant difference between SVR and non-SVR group was found only in USP18 expression at week 12 ( P=0.001). Initial expression of four genes predicted SVR in univariate analysis ( CXCL9 [OR: 12.00, 95% CI: 1.21–118.89], IFI27 [OR: 12.00, 95% CI: 1.21–118.89], IFNG [OR: 10.50, 95% CI: 1.50–73.67], USP18 [OR: 21.00, 95% CI: 2.05–215.18]). In multivariate analysis, only the initial expression of USP18 was identified as a predictor of SVR ( P=0.047).