doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.63 Published online 30 April 2012
Researchers have created what they claim to be the first mathematical model of the full course of infection of hepatitis C virus (HCV). This fully describes the impact of its viral and immune processes on the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the cancer it causes.
Most available mathematical models describe the short term dynamics of HCV after the antiviral therapy is given to patients. The new model, however, is based on the premise that long term conditions such as HCC are random and driven by cell-mediated immune response. The researchers have modelled the risk of cancer and the dynamics of HCV over the course of its infection.
The researchers have found approximately 9% prevalence of HCC in individuals after 40 years, a figure consistent with estimates in available literature. They also found that higher viral infection potential led to a greater likelihood of developing HCC but did not determine the speed with which it arose.
"This 'infectivity' drives the level of immune response, the amount of hepatocyte proliferation, and the risk of a mutational event," they say.
In their simulations, the probability of developing HCC increased with duration of infection at the rate of 2.4 incident cases per thousand HCV-infected person years. This indicated that the sooner viral replication can be suppressed through antiviral therapy, the greater the chance of forestalling HCC.