Antiviral Therapy Reduces Hepatocellular Carcinoma Recurrence in Patients With Low HBV-DNA Levels: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Background:Despite antiviral treatment has been shown to reduce hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) recurrence after curative treatment for hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related HCC in patients with high preoperative HBV-DNA levels, it is still unclear whether antiviral therapy is useful in reducing recurrence in patients with low preoperative HBV-DNA levels.Methods:In this randomized controlled trial, 200 patients who underwent curative resection for HCC with low baseline HBV-DNA levels were randomly assigned to receive preemptive antiviral therapy or not. The primary endpoints were recurrence-free survival. This study was censored on March 31, 2015 when all surviving patients had a minimum follow-up of 60 months. The analysis was done on an intention-to-treat basis.Results:The baseline clinical, laboratory, and tumor characteristics of the 2 groups were comparable. The 1-, 3-, and 5-year recurrence-free survival rates for the antiviral group and the control group were 85.9%, 55.2%, and 52.0% and 80.6%, 40.9%, and 32.3%, respectively. The corresponding overall survival rates for the 2 groups were 94.0%, 75.7%, and 64.1% and 90.0%, 62.4%, and 43.7%, respectively. The recurrence-free survival and overall survival for the antiviral group were significantly better than the control group (P = 0.016, P = 0.004, respectively). After adjusting for confounding prognostic factors in a Cox model, the relative risks of recurrence and death for antiviral treatment were 0.601 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.409–0.884; P = 0.010] and 0.509 (95% CI, 0.333–0.778; P = 0.002), respectively. Antiviral therapy was an independent protective factor of late tumor recurrence (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.316, 95% CI 0.157–0.637; P = 0.001) but not of early tumor recurrence (HR = 0.782, 95% CI, 0.493–1.240; P = 0.296).Conclusions:In patients with low preoperative HBV-DNA levels, antiviral therapy significantly reduced HCC recurrence after R0 hepatic resection.

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