From the Journals

Statins hamper hepatocellular carcinoma in viral hepatitis patients



Lipophilic statin therapy significantly reduced the incidence and mortality of hepatocellular carcinoma in adults with viral hepatitis, based on data from 16,668 patients.

The mortality rates for hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States and Europe have been on the rise for decades, and the risk may persist in severe cases despite the use of hepatitis B virus suppression or hepatitis C virus eradication, wrote Tracey G. Simon, MD, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues. Previous studies suggest that statins might reduce HCC risk in viral hepatitis patients, but evidence supporting one type of statin over another for HCC prevention is limited, they said.

In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers reviewed data from a national registry of hepatitis patients in Sweden to assess the effect of lipophilic or hydrophilic statin use on HCC incidence and mortality.

They found a significant reduction in 10-year HCC risk for lipophilic statin users, compared with nonusers (8.1% vs. 3.3%. However, the difference was not significant for hydrophilic statin users vs. nonusers (8.0% vs. 6.8%). The effect of lipophilic statin use was dose dependent; the largest effect on reduction in HCC risk occurred with 600 or more lipophilic statin cumulative daily doses in users, compared with nonusers (8.4% vs. 2.5%).

The study population included 6,554 lipophilic statin users and 1,780 hydrophilic statin users, matched with 8,334 nonusers. Patient demographics were similar between both types of statin user and nonuser groups.

In addition, 10-year mortality was significantly lower for lipophilic statin users compared with nonusers (15.2% vs. 7.3%) and also for hydrophilic statin users, compared with nonusers (16.0% vs. 11.5%).

In a small number of patients with liver disease (462), liver-specific mortality was significantly reduced in lipophilic statin users, compared with nonusers (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.76 vs. 0.98).

“Of note, our findings were robust across several sensitivity analyses and were similar in all predefined subgroups, including among men and women and persons with and without cirrhosis or antiviral therapy use,” the researchers noted.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the potential confounding from variables such as smoking, hepatitis B viral DNA, hepatitis C virus eradication, stage of fibrosis, and HCC screening, as well as a lack of laboratory data to assess cholesterol levels’ impact on statin use, the researchers said. In addition, the study did not compare lipophilic and hydrophilic statins.

However, the results suggest potential distinct benefits of lipophilic statins to reduce HCC risk and support the need for further research, the researchers concluded.

Dr. Simon had no financial conflicts to disclose, but disclosed support from a North American Training Grant from the American College of Gastroenterology. Several coauthors disclosed relationships with multiple companies including AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, Janssen, and Merck Sharp & Dohme. The study was supported in part by the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center, the National Institutes of Health, Nyckelfonden, Region Orebro (Sweden) County, and the Karolinska Institutet.

SOURCE: Simon TG et al. Ann Intern Med. 2019 Aug 19. doi: 10.7326/M18-2753.

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