University of Pittsburgh Receives $7.7 Million Grant to Study Whether Blacks and Whites Respond Differently to Hepatitis C Therapy
The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has received a $7.7 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to coordinate a study to determine whether blacks and whites react differently to hepatitis C therapy, according to a GSPH release. The Study of Viral Resistance to Antiviral Therapy of Chronic Hepatitis C (VIRAHEP-C) will survey the effect of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, a combination recently approved by the FDA for fighting hepatitis C infection, in 400 HCV-positive participants (200 black, 200 white) at eight sites around the country. Researchers will compare outcomes after one year of therapy to determine whether there are any real outcome differences between blacks, who are "disproportionately" affected by HCV, and whites. They will examine the clinical, biochemical, virologic, cellular, immunological and genetic factors that could account for any difference in response between the races. Some studies have demonstrated that interferon therapy is hindered by an overabundance of iron, a condition that may affect up to 30% of the black population in the United States. The presence of fat in the liver, a condition affected by age, gender, body mass index, alcohol use, diabetes, cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, also impairs interferon's ability to hinder HCV infection. The researchers will also examine viral kinetics -- the rise and fall of viral load -- to determine whether the patterns can indicate who will respond well to therapy. The results of the study will be used to tailor HCV treatments to the different populations (GSPH release, 10/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.