The first prospective study of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in patients with any type of cancer has not only demonstrated that the treatment is safe and efficacious in this population, but that attaining sustained virologic response (SVR) can confer eligibility to participate in chemotherapeutic trials.

Harrys Torres, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Infection Control and Employee Health and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, and colleagues cite data that indicate approximately 70% of patients with hepatitis B or C are currently excluded from oncology clinical trials.

They explain that many HCV-infected cancer patients are excluded from early-phase cancer clinical trials because the infection can be associated with increased cancer-related complications, drug toxicity, and overall mortality.

With the current study demonstrating that DAA treatment can be safely employed in patients with cancer, and that attaining SVR effectively removes this barrier to participating in chemotherapy trials, Torres calls for greater effort to screen for, and treat HCV in cancer patients.

“We can probably say that this is a new indication for hep C treatment, to gain clearance for chemo treatment,” Torres commented. “So, you’re opening options and allowing access to all the clinical trials they may have, by simply removing this curable infection from the picture.”

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