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Immune Gene May Help Predict Effectiveness of Hepatitis C Therapy

February 2010

As discussed earlier, newer hepatitis C treatments are currently being studied that hopefully will not only cure more people but will also reduce its many side effects and length of therapy. In the meantime, a gene called IL28B has been found that may help predict how effective hepatitis C therapy will be in certain people. Not only is it associated with long-term responses to current standard therapy, it also helps forecast how fast the treatment response is.

In November 2009, results from the IDEAL study of 1,600 people showed that the "CC" version of IL28B (getting the gene from both parents) is associated with the best response to treatment. The "TC" type (only one IL28B gene from one parent) and "TT" type (no gene from either parent) were associated with poorer outcomes. Other factors that influenced treatment outcomes were hepatitis C viral load, ethnicity, liver fibrosis and fasting blood sugar. This gene will also have to be studied in all of the newer drugs now in study.

Confirming these results with more research is the next step. Nevertheless, developing a test that detects this gene could change medical practice for treating hepatitis C. Test results would give doctors and patients alike more information to make better decisions before starting therapy. Hopefully a new test will be developed quickly, perhaps before the end of 2010.

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