CA_logo-blueCaring Ambassadors Hepatitis C Program Newsletter

October 2008



In The News


Hepatitis C battle intensifying

“Liver specialists in Nevada are seeing an increase in patients since health officials in February announced an outbreak of hepatitis C cases linked to an endoscopy clinic. Dr. Robert Gish, a California physician who has had a part-time practice in Nevada for the past two decades, said his patient load has doubled since the outbreak was made public. Some of his new patients underwent procedures at the 700 Shadow Lane facility and have tested positive for hepatitis C. Other patients are just learning they have the disease and are seeking treatment, Gish said.


Dr. Donald Hillebrand, another liver specialist from California with a part-time Nevada practice, said his patient load "has picked up substantially." Hillebrand was hired by Southwest Medical Associates in April to help with an anticipated growth in liver patients as a result of the outbreak, linked to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, 700 Shadow Lane. Hillebrand said he is seeing two general types of liver patients in Southern Nevada. One group is composed of those with end-stage liver disease; the other consists of general hepatology patients, those with hepatitis C or B or who just need a liver doctor.” Read more…


It's not visible to the naked eye, but Natalie Cole has just begun the fight of her life.

 “The Grammy winning singer is battling hepatitis C, and tonight on ET she's sharing her story for the very first time with her good friend and ours, Paula Abdul. "In 1980-1982, I was doing heroin," reveals Natalie, tracing the possible cause of contracting the disease. "The first day that 'This Will Be' came out on the radio I was on my way to get heroin."


While she overcame her drug problems long ago, she's paying the price today. "This is a virus that was dormant in my body for 25 years," she explains. "I had no symptoms, was feeling great, working out like a crazy person -- and this just keeled me over, like a feather."” Read more…


Altor BioScience licenses T-cell receptors targeting HIV and hepatitis C from Massachusetts General Hospital 

 “Altor BioScience Corporation today announced that it has entered into an agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize T-cell receptors (TCRs) specific for cells infected by HIV and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). The license has resulted from the success of Altor’s collaboration established in 2004 with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Partners AIDS Research Center at MGH. Altor has already successfully improved and converted the licensed TCRs into targeted therapeutic reagents using its Soluble T-cell Antigen Receptor (STAR™) technology.


Hing Wong, Ph.D., President & CEO of Altor, commented, “The receptors we have licensed were discovered and characterized by Dr. Bruce Walker, one of the foremost authorities on viral antigen expression and T-cell immune responses in HIV and HCV patients. We are excited to have the opportunity to add these targeting molecules to our STAR™ program and look forward to taking an anti-HIV and anti-HCV drug candidate into the clinic.” Dr. Wong added, “The specific targeting to HIV-infected cells makes it possible for the first time to eliminate latent viral reservoirs, which cannot be achieved with currently available treatments.”” Read more…


Hepatitis C patients may have abnormal blood sugar

“Nearly two thirds of patients with chronic hepatitis C infection may have abnormal blood sugar levels, according to a report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Blood sugar, or "glucose," abnormalities "are common and easily underestimated among patients with chronic hepatitis C infection," Dr. Ming-Lung Yu from Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan told Reuters Health. Careful evaluation for undetected glucose abnormalities is "essential" in caring for chronic hepatitis C patients.


Yu and colleagues compared the prevalence and characteristics of glucose abnormalities among 522 chronic hepatitis C patients and a comparison group of 447 without hepatitis C infection ("controls"), based on the results of an oral glucose tolerance test. After excluding the subjects who were known to have diabetes, just over one third of the hepatitis C patients (34.2 percent) had normal results on the oral glucose tolerance test, the authors report, whereas 42.8 percent had impaired glucose tolerance and 23.0 percent had undiagnosed diabetes. In contrast, 64.7 percent of the controls had normal levels of glucose, 32.4 percent had impaired glucose tolerance, and 2.9 percent had diabetes.” Read more…


Woman with hep C files suit against HMO

 “A woman who says she contracted Hepatitis C during a procedure at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada has filed a law suit against her health insurance company - not the clinic. 71-year-old Alynne Griffiths says her HMO, PacifiCare of Nevada, forced her to go to the doctors involved in the Hepatitis crisis. Griffiths filed the lawsuit in an attempt to make her insurance offer a broader doctor referral system.

The Southern Nevada Health District has linked eight acute cases of Hepatitis to the Shadow Lane facility and at least 77 chronic cases.” Read more…

Evidence to support belief in transmission of hepatitis C by sharing drug sniffing equipment “Hepatitis C can be detected in the nasal passage, and in straws which are inserted in the nose, report researchers in the October 1st edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Their findings support the hypothesis that hepatitis C can be transmitted by sharing straws or banknotes which are used to snort drugs. The theory of hepatitis C transmission through this route is that frequent or long-term sniffing or snorting of drugs such as cocaine can cause damage and bleeding in the nasal passage. Straws or banknotes that are inserted in the nose could come into contact with hepatitis C infected blood or mucus, which may then be transmitted to someone else sharing the same straw.” Read more…


New York City dialysis center exposes nearly 700 patients to hepatitis C
“A New York City dialysis center was shut down by the state Health department after one patient tested positive for hepatitis C. Now, nearly 700 patients of the Life Care Dialysis Center in Manhattan are being urged to get tested for both hepatitis B and C strains, as well as HIV, reports. In a press release, the Health Department said they uncovered poor conditions, including “blood on the treatment chairs and dialysis machines, lack of proper hand hygiene, and inadequate disinfection of equipment.”…

Officials say anyone treated at the center between Jan. 23, 2004 and the present should contact their physicians and get tested, the news station reported.” Read more…

Hepatitis C sufferers miss out on treatment

 “Hepatitis Australia has called for urgent action to assist people with hepatitis C after new figures revealed more than 98% of the 200,000 Australians living with the virus did not receive any treatment last year. Despite an available cure for many cases, the number of people with severe liver disease as a result of untreated hepatitis C has risen from 35,900 to 47,600 in the past five years. Helen Tyrrell, head of Hepatitis Australia, said she was alarmed by new figures from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Researchthat showed only 3539 people, or 2% of Australians with hepatitis C, accessed treatment last year.’ Read more…

SciClone reports encouraging results from Phase IIa hepatitis trial

“SciClone Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company, has announced encouraging results from its proof-of-concept Phase II clinical trial using its proprietary, immunomodulatory compound SCV-07 as a sole agent administered to patients chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus. The trial was designed to evaluate the effect of SCV-07 on hepatitis C viral load, as well as on other measures of immune response. SCV-07 demonstrated activity in some treated patients in the higher dosage groups, and the decrease in viral load in these patients was accompanied by an increase in an immunological biomarker which is usually correlated with response against hepatitis C virus (HCV). Additionally, SCV-07 was shown to be generally safe and well-tolerated with no dose limiting toxicities or serious adverse events reported.” Read more…


22 die from side effects of hepatitis C drugs: health survey
“Over 220 reports of lung-tissue diseases among patients using interferon drugs to treat hepatitis C were received between April 2004 and May this year, with 22 cases ending in death, a government survey has found.A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare found a total of 223 cases of the side effect of interstitial pneumonitis during the period. Based on the results, the ministry ordered Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., the producer of the drug Pegasys, which was named in many of the reports, to alter package leaflets to prohibit the use of the drug by patients who had suffered interstitial pneumonitis in the past.” Read more…


Kidney disease risk increased for patients with HIV and hepatitis C
“People who are both HIV and hepatitis C infected are at significantly higher risk of kidney disease compared to those with HIV only, say US researchers in a study published in the September 12th edition of AIDS. Chronic kidney disease and its most serious form, end-stage renal disease, is more common in HIV infected individuals. Now researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have attempted to find out what effect HIV/hepatitis C coinfection had on the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. They reviewed the data from any study which looked at chronic kidney disease and HIV infection but also recorded hepatitis C infection status. A total of 24 studies were included in their analysis.’ Read more…


ZymoGenetics “Sleeper” for Hepatitis C Aims to Wipe Out Side Effects of Anti-Viral Therapy
“Lots of people on Wall Street are hyped up about new treatments for hepatitis C from Vertex pharmaceuticals and Schering-Plough. But a little-known drug in development from Seattle-based ZymoGenetics could steal a bit of thunder, and possibly ride the wave of enthusiasm those companies are creating among doctors and patients …Instead of developing another protease inhibitor to be taken in addition to the standard of care, ZymoGenetics has developed an alternative that has the viral killing power of interferon alpha, without causing the side effects. It calls its version of the standard of care “pegylated interferon lambda,” or IL-29.” Read more…


StemCells, Inc. Receives NIH Grant to pursue cell-based therapeutic for hepatitis C 

 “StemCells, Inc. announced today that it has been awarded a $305,000 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to research and develop a potential cell-based therapeutic for liver disease arising from infection by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is a global health challenge, with approximately 170 million people affected worldwide and an estimated three million new infections each year. The virus targets liver cells and is a leading cause of end-stage liver disease.

The grant will fund work over the next year to investigate whether the Company’s proprietary human liver engrafting cells (hLEC) can be made resistant to infection by the hepatitis C virus. The studies will be done in collaboration with Jeffrey Glenn, M.D., Ph.D, Associate Professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Glenn is a recognized and widely published expert in hepatitis C, and his research has focused on designing novel antiviral strategies.” Read more…

Clinical Trials, Cohort Studies, Pilot Studies

Therapeutic effect of ARBs on insulin resistance and liver injury in patients with NAFLD and chronic hepatitis C: A pilot study. Enjoji M, Kotoh K, Kato M, et al. Int J Mol Med. 2008 Oct;22(4):521-7

Chronic viral hepatitis is a significant contributor to the immunosenescent phenotype of parenteral drug addiction. Reece AS. Addict Biol. 2008 Sep 22; [Epub ahead of print]

Thiazolides: a new class of drugs for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C. Rossignol JF, Keeffe EB Future Microbiol. 2008 Oct;3:539-545


Liver steatosis: investigation of opposed-phase T1-weighted liver MR signal intensity loss and visceral fat measurement as biomarkers. Bahl M, Qayyum A, Westphalen AC, et al.  Radiology. 2008 Oct;249(1):160-6

Peg-interferon alpha-2a versus peg-interferon alpha-2b in nonresponders with HCV active chronic hepatitis: A pilot study. Scotto G, Fazio V, Fornabaio C, et al. J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2008 Sep 8; [Epub ahead of print]


The Tor Vergata weaning off immunosuppression protocol in stable HCV liver transplant patients: The updated follow up at 78 months. Orlando G, Manzia T, Baiocchi L, et al. Transpl Immunol. 2008 Sep 4; [Epub ahead of print]

Basic and Applied Science, Pre-Clinical Studies


Interferon-alpha therapy does not modulate hepatic expression of classical type I interferon inducible genes. Meier V, Mihm S, Ramadori G. J Med Virol. 2008 Sep 23;80(11):1912-1918

Relation between serum levels of cell-free DNA and inflammation status in hepatitis C virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma. Iida M, Iizuka N, Sakaida I, et al. Oncol Rep. 2008 Oct;20(4):761-5

Sperm ultrastructure and meiotic segregation in a group of patients with chronic hepatitis B and C. Moretti E, Federico MG, Giannerini V, Collodel G. Andrologia. 2008 Oct;40(5):286-91

Gene expression profile of Huh-7 cells expressing hepatitis C virus genotype 1b or 3a core proteins. Pazienza V, Clément S, Pugnale P, et al. Liver Int. 2008 Sep 18; [Epub ahead of print]

Liver insulin-like growth factor 2 methylation in hepatitis C virus cirrhosis and further occurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma.  Couvert P, Carrie A, Paries J, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep 21;14(35):5419-27

Activation of central nervous system inflammatory pathways by interferon-alpha: relationship to monoamines and depression. Raison CL, Borisov AS, Majer M, et al.  Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Sep 16; [Epub ahead of print]

Three cases of successful tryptophan add-on or monotherapy of hepatitis C and IFNalpha-associated mood disorders. Schaefer M, Winterer J, Sarkar R, et al. Psychosomatics. 2008 Sep-Oct;49(5):442-6

A recombinant replication-competent hepatitis C virus expressing Azami-Green, a bright green-emitting fluorescent protein, suitable for visualization of infected cells. Hou W, Aoki C, Yu L, et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Sep 8; [Epub ahead of print]

High values of CXCL10 serum levels in mixed cryoglobulinemia associated with hepatitis C infection. Antonelli A, Ferri C, Fallahi P, et al.  Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep 4; [Epub ahead of print]

Regulatory polymorphisms in the interleukin-18 promoter are associated with hepatitis C virus clearance. An P, Thio CL, Kirk GD, et al. J Infect Dis. 2008 Oct 15;198(8):1159-1165

HIV/HCV Coinfection

Impact of HIV on Genomic Variability in the 5'UTR of HCV in Indian Patients with HCV/HIV Co-Infection. Chaudhary A, Kukreti H, Pasha ST, et al. Intervirology. 2008 Sep 10;51(4):224-229

Complementary & Alternative Therapy

Treatment with silybin-vitamin E-phospholipid complex in patients with hepatitis C infection. Falasca K, Ucciferri C, Mancino P, et al.  J Med Virol. 2008 Sep 23;80(11):1900-1906

The impact of diet on liver fibrosis and on response to interferon therapy in patients with HCV-related chronic hepatitis. Loguercio C, Federico A, Masarone M, et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep 11; [Epub ahead of print]

Epidemiology, Diagnostics, and Miscellaneous Works


Discordance between biochemical markers of liver activity and fibrosis (Actitest((R))-Fibrotest((R))) and liver biopsy in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Fontanges T, Bailly F, Trepo E, et al. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2008 Sep 3; [Epub ahead of print]

Intrafamilial transmission of hepatitis C virus: Infection of the father predicts the risk of perinatal transmission. Indolfi G, Bartolini E, Azzari C, et al. J Med Virol. 2008 Sep 23;80(11):1907-1911


Incidence and Risk Factors for Hepatocellular Carcinoma After Solid Organ Transplantation. Hoffmann CJ, Subramanian AK, Cameron AM, Engels EA Transplantation. 2008 Sep 27;86(6):784-790

Differences between two real-time PCR based assays (RealTime HCV, COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan) and one signal amplification assay (VERSANT HCV RNA 3.0) for HCV RNA detection and quantification. Vermehren J, Kau A, Gärtner BC, et al. J Clin Microbiol. 2008 Sep 17; [Epub ahead of print]

Diagnoses of, and deaths from, severe liver disease due to hepatitis C in England between 2000 and 2005 estimated using multiple data sources. Mann AG, Ramsay ME, Brant LJ, et al.  Epidemiol Infect. 2008 Sep 16;:1-6

Preoperative assessment of the risk factors that help to predict the prognosis after living donor liver transplantation. Yoshida R, Iwamoto T, Yagi T, et al. World J Surg. 2008 Sep 16; [Epub ahead of print]

Prevalence of hepatitis C infection and risk factors in hospitalized diabetic patients: results of a cross-sectional study. Cadranel JF, Di Martino V, Lambrey G, et al. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Sep;20(9):829-36

Hepatitis C virus infection in South Australian prisoners: seroprevalence, seroconversion, and risk factors. Miller ER, Bi P, Ryan P. Int J Infect Dis. 2008 Sep 12; [Epub ahead of print]

Morphologic features resembling transplant rejection in core biopsies of native livers from patients with Hepatitis C. Souza P, Prihoda TJ, Hoyumpa AM, Sharkey FE. Hum Pathol. 2008 Sep 12; [Epub ahead of print]