Health Team

Duke researchers study Hepatitis C treatments

Posted August 17, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2009 6:28 p.m. EDT

— To find out why some racial and ethnic groups don’t respond well to common treatments for Hepatitis C, some Duke researchers are looking for differences in their DNA.

Research shows East Asians respond best to the most common treatments, followed by Caucasians. African-Americans have the least success with treatment.

Scientists compared DNA sequences of cured patients versus uncured patients.

“We found a single change in one gene that doubles your chance of responding to treatment,” said Dr. Alex Thompson, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute and Division of Gastroenterology.

After 48 weeks of treatment, 80 percent of the patients with the good biomarker were cured, compared to 30 percent with the less favorable biomarker.

“It's sort of changing the way we think about these patients. It's not your race, it's your genotype that's really predicting your response to treatment,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the finding will change how patients are assessed for treatment. Researchers also said the findings will change how new Hepatitis C drugs are tested in clinical trials.

In 2005, Ken Lasnier, 58, went through a 48-week regimen with daily Interferon injections and Ribavirin pills to fight Hepatitis C.

As a genotype 1 patient, Lasnier's hope for a cure was about 40 percent, but after undergoing treatment at Duke he was cured.

The study is featured in the Journal of Nature.