Hep B Blog

Cast Your Vote for HBF in the Philly DoGooder Video Contest!

HBF is entering the Philly DoGooder contest with the fantastic video by HBF’s own, Daniel Chen. Click and watch below. There will be 5 winners total, so if we win we’ll be splitting the $250,000 prize money with 4 other organizations. Help us win and get more resources to empower the community by voting once a day!

Voting is easy! Click on the big “VOTE FOR THIS ENTRY” button directly below the video and you will directed to log into your Facebook account. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can register with your email so you can vote. Every vote counts, so be sure to share this information with family and friends and on all of your social media outlets. Don’t forget to vote once every 24 hours!

Aspirin Use Associated With Lower Risk of Developing Hepatocellular Carcinoma and Dying of Chronic Liver Disease

HBF welcomes special guest bloggers, Vikrant V. Sahasrabuddhe, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H and Katherine A. McGlynn, Ph.D, M.P.H. both researchers at the National Cancer Institute of the NIH, and study authors of the recent Journal of the National Cancer Institute publication.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer.  New cases of HCC and deaths related to HCC have been increasing in the United States since the 1980s.  Most cases of HCC occur in individuals with chronic liver disease (CLD).  CLD is caused by chronic inflammation related to viral infection, excess alcohol consumption or other causes.  While HCC is relatively rare in the U.S., occurring in fewer than 10 per 100,000 persons per year, CLD is more common.  Unfortunately, CLD is among the top 10 causes of death in adults between the ages of 45 and 75 years.

In a new study from the National Cancer Institute, researchers investigated whether reduction of inflammation, through the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, could reduce the risk of developing HCC or death due to CLD. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on November 28, 2012.

The researchers studied a cohort of over 300,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and  71 years who were enrolled in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.  Aspirin and non-aspirin NSAID (for example Advil, Motrin) use was compared among persons who developed HCC or died from CLD and those who did not develop these outcomes.  In all, 250 study participants developed HCC and 428 died from CLD.  Almost three-fourths of the participants reported using aspirin and approximately one-half reported using non-aspirin NSAIDs.

The study found that participants who reported taking aspirin were 41% less likely to develop HCC, and 45% less likely to die from CLD than those who did not take aspirin. Use of non-aspirin NSAIDS did not reduce the risk of developing HCC, but did reduce the risk of dying from CLD by 26%. The researchers note that additional studies will be required to confirm these findings.

While this study will not lead to any immediate changes in clinical practice, it raises interesting new questions on the role of inflammation in risk for HCC.  Although the researchers took into consideration the effect of alcohol intake (a major risk factor for HCC) as well as smoking and body mass index, the study had no information on hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) status of the study participants.  In addition, NSAID use was only measured for the past 12 months, and the study had no information on the indication, duration or dose.  To partially overcome such limitations, results were analyzed after excluding participants who reported hypertension or cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study. Those individuals might be taking a low-dose aspirin for a longer duration for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The results were similar after excluding these participants, which suggests that the main results are likely valid regardless of the indication, duration or dose of aspirin.

The study is the largest population-based study to date to assess development of HCC and risk of death due to CLD in relation to NSAID use.  HCC and CLD involve chronic, long-term inflammatory changes in liver cells, which are caused by enzymes such as cyclooxygenases (COX).  One of the primary ways that NSAIDs modulate the risk of chronic inflammation is by stopping or inhibiting the action of COX enzymes; thus inflammatory changes that contribute to the development of CLD and HCC are reduced.  It is also speculated that aspirin may have other anti-inflammatory mechanisms.  NCI researchers are investigating these hypotheses through basic and translational research studies, as well as assessing the risk of developing HCC and dying of CLD in association with NSAID intake in other epidemiologic studies.

The full study is by:

Vikrant V. Sahasrabuddhe, Munira Z. Gunja, Barry I. Graubard, Britton Trabert, Lauren M. Schwartz, Yikyung Park, Albert R. Hollenbeck, Neal D. Freedman and Katherine A. McGlynn. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug Use, Chronic Liver Disease, and Hepatocellular Carcinoma. J Natl Cancer Inst (2012). Published online at: doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs452

Editorial Comments by W. Thomas London, HBF Senior Medical Advisor

In previous blogs I reported that several drugs commonly used to treat or prevent diseases or conditions other than liver cancer or chronic liver disease may also prevent these serious liver diseases.  These included propranolol used to reduce pressure in the portal vein; metformin used to treat diabetes; and statins for the lowering of cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.

The above report adds aspirin to this list, but people with chronic hepatitis B or C should not begin taking aspirin immediately.  Aspirin may cause serious bleeding that is sometimes fatal.  In order for blood to clot, platelets (cell fragments in blood) must clump.  One of aspirin’s actions is to prevent platelets from aggregating (clumping). This action may be the main reason that regular aspirin may prevent heart attacks. Patients with CLD are already at risk of developing serious bleeding.  The take home message is that patients with chronic hepatitis B or C should consult their doctor before taking aspirin or any other drug.

About the blog authors:

Vikrant Sahasrabuddhe,M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H.

Associate Investigator in the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch and is currently detailed to the NCI from the faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Katherine A. McGlynn, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Deputy Chief, Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch 


Diagnosed With Chronic Hepatitis B? What Stage – HBeAg-Positive Chronic Infection / Immune Tolerant?

Do you know the stage or phase of your chronic hepatitis B infection? Quite often people may refer to themselves as “hepatitis B carriers”. This statement by itself does not say anything about your chronic hepatitis B infection except that you are someone who tests positive for hepatitis B, and that you are HBsAg positive.

The names of the stages or phases of HBV may vary with the liver society or over the years, but they reflect the natural history of the virus. It can be helpful for your doctor to determine if you are in the immune tolerant, immune active or clearance phase, the inactive carrier phase, have developed HBe negative chronic hepatitis B, or if you are in an HBsAg negative phase. It may take a few months or even half a year to accurately determine the phase, and then your doctor can talk to you about possible treatment options and whether or not treatment would benefit you at this time.  Remember, hepatitis B is typically not an emergency, so try to relax with the process knowing you may not have immediate answers.

If you are acutely infected, you also follow the natural course of the virus in a matter of months (clearance of an acute HBV infection within 6 months is considered an acute hepatitis B  infection). However, at the end of 6 months, those acutely infected will have a resolved infection, and will no longer be HBsAg+. If you are chronically infected, you will pass through many of these phases too, but unfortunately you will likely never get to an HBsAg negative or resolved phase.  The journey from phase to phase is different for each person and the time it takes to move through these phases varies along with the amount of liver damage that occurs.

The importance of a good liver specialist or knowledgeable doctor  cannot be over emphasized. These stages and phases may seem simple to understand, but not everything is black and white. There are often “gray areas” between phases  or time between phases where bloodwork and other diagnostic data must be carefully monitored. Results vary with the patient. New evidence indicates there may be more damage occurring during this gray area than originally thought. There may be a missed opportunity for treatment during this time.

The importance of being actively involved in your hepatitis B care can not be overstated. Tracking your lab data over time and putting it into an excel spreadsheet or graphing the data may help you understand what is happening with the virus and may even be helpful for your doctor, so don’t forget to request copies of all lab results. You are more in control than you think. Get involved with your care!

Once you have confirmed that you have chronic hep B, you need further testing to determine your HBeAg status. Those with chronic hepatitis B  are either HBeAg positive or negative. If you are HBeAg positive, you have a higher hepatitis B viral load/HBV DNA and are more infectious to others. People who are HBeAg positive are either in the immune tolerant stage or the immune clearance stage or in a gray zone. Repeated labs over time will help clarify this for your doctor.

If you are in the immune tolerant stage, you are HBeAg positive and have a high viral load. You will have normal or very mildly elevated ALT (SGPT) levels and mild or no inflammation or damage to the liver. This is very common with chronically infected young children who may have viral loads in the millions or even billions. During this time the virus is actively replicating in the liver, but the immune system has not recognized the virus so it is not trying to kill the infected liver cells. It is not the replication of the virus that kills liver cells, causing liver damage, but it is the response of your immune system to these infected liver cells.

During the immune tolerant phase the virus is happily replicating, completely unchecked by the immune system, which accounts for the high viral load and lack of liver damage during this time. People in the immune tolerant phase may remain in this phase for a couple of years, or it may be decades.  Treatment is not typically recommended during this phase.  However, for those that have been in this phase for decades, treatment is something likely  recommended by a  liver specialist. There is also the concern that a person may be in a gray zone where ALT elevations and subsequent liver damage may be occurring but may be missed. This emphasizes the need for very careful monitoring by a knowledgeable doctor and the possible discussion for treatment.

What happens when you move into the HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis /Immune Reactive / Immune clearance  phase? Read more.