Computer Model: HCV, Associated Cancer Will Be Rare by 2036

By Brenda L. Mooney

PITTSBURGH – Will hepatitis C become a rare disease over the next two decades or so?


Jagpreet Chhatwal, PhD

The answer is yes, according to a computer simulation conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Results of the simulation, reported recently in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, focused on the year 2036.1

“Hepatitis C (HCV) is the leading cause of liver cancer and accounts for more than 15,000 deaths in the U.S. each year,” said corresponding author Jagpreet Chhatwal, PhD, assistant professor of Health Services Research at MD Anderson.

“If we can improve access to treatment and incorporate more aggressive screening guidelines, we can reduce the number of chronic HCV cases, prevent more cases of liver cancer and reduce liver-related deaths,” Chhatwal said.

The VA will be among the greatest beneficiaries of earlier detection and more effective treatment. In 2002, the VA cared for 146,290 veterans with HCV, very few of whom had ever been diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), said David Ross, MD, director of the HIV, HCV and public health pathogens programs for the VA. By 2013, the VA had nearly 175,00 veterans with HCV, 20% more, but six times as many with recent diagnoses (1,600) and 10 times as many who had ever been diagnosed with HCC (4,900). 

For the National Institutes of Health-funded study, Chhatwal and his collaborators used a mathematical model with information from several sources, including more than 30 clinical trials, to predict the effect of direct-acting antivirals and the use of screening for chronic HCV cases. 

By 2036, researchers predict, HCV will affect only one in 1,500 people in the United States. 

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