Background & Aims: The effect of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) on the response to interferon-free direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) infection remains unclear. Using a systematic review and meta-analysis approach, we aimed to investigate the effect of DAA therapy on sustained virologic response (SVR) among patients with CHC and either active, inactive or no HCC. Methods: PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched from 1/1/2013 to 9/24/2018. The pooled SVR rates were computed using DerSimonian-Laird random-effects models. Results: We included 49 studies from 15 countries, comprised of 3,341 patients with HCC and 35,701 without HCC. Overall, the pooled SVR was lower in patients with HCC than in those without HCC (89.6%, 95% CI 86.8–92.1%, I2 = 79.1% vs. 93.3%, 95% CI 91.9–94.7%, I2 = 95.0%, p = 0.0012), translating to a 4.8% (95% CI 0.2–7.4%) SVR reduction by meta-regression analysis. The largest SVR reduction (18.8%) occurred in patients with active/residual HCC vs. inactive/ablated HCC (SVR 73.1% vs. 92.6%, p = 0.002). Meanwhile, patients with HCC who received a prior liver transplant had higher SVR rates than those who did not (p <0.001). Regarding specific DAA regimens, patients with HCC treated with ledipasvir/sofosbuvir had lower SVR rates than patients without HCC (92.6%, n = 884 vs. 97.8%, n = 13,141, p = 0.026), but heterogeneity was high (I2 = 84.7%, p <0.001). The SVR rate was similar in patients with/without HCC who were treated with ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir ± dasabuvir (n = 101) (97.2% vs. 94.8%, p = 0.79), or daclatasvir/asunaprevir (91.7% vs. 89.8%, p = 0.66). Conclusion: Overall, SVR rates were lower in patients with HCC, especially with active HCC, compared to those without HCC, though heterogeneity was high. Continued efforts are needed to aggressively screen, diagnose, and treat HCC to ensure higher CHC cure rates. Lay summary: There are now medications (direct-acting antivirals or “DAAs”) that can “cure” hepatitis C virus, but patients with hepatitis C and liver cancer may be less likely to achieve cure than those without liver cancer. However, patients with liver cancer are also more likely to have advanced liver disease and risk factors that can decrease cure rates, so better controlled studies are needed to confirm these findings.
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