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1.  Advances in the Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus Infection 
Gastroenterology & Hepatology  2012;8(2):91-101.
Therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with pegylated interferon α and ribavirin leads to suboptimal rates of viral eradication in patients with genotype 1 HCV, the most common viral strain in the United States and many other countries. Recent advances in the study of viral kinetics, host factors that predict response to antiviral therapy, and viral protein structure have established the foundation of a new era in the treatment of HCV infection. The HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitors boceprevir and telaprevir, the first 2 agents in a new and promising generation of direct-acting antiviral agents to have completed phase III studies, were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in May 2011. The addition of these HCV protease inhibitors to standard therapy has been demonstrated to dramatically improve sustained virologic response rates, both in treatment-naïve patients and in prior relapsers and nonresponders. These novel agents represent only the beginning of a revolution in HCV therapy, which will include additional protease inhibitors as well as other classes of drugs currently under investigation, such as polymerase inhibitors, NS5A inhibitors, and host factor inhibitors such as cyclophilin antagonists. The future of HCV therapy holds promise for significantly higher sustained virologic response rates with shorter treatment durations, as well as the intriguing potential to achieve virologic cure with interferon-free combination therapy regimens.
PMCID: PMC3317517  PMID: 22485076
Hepatitis C virus; genotype 1; boceprevir; telaprevir; direct-acting antiviral agents
2.  Hepatitis C drugs: The end of the pegylated interferon era and the emergence of all-oral, interferon-free antiviral regimens: A concise review 
The increasing medical and economic burden of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has rapidly prompted changes in the landscape of antiviral therapy in Canada, which has witnessed significant annual increases in morbidity and mortality due to HCV over the past two decades. The limited efficacy and tolerability of standard pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy has prompted the development of direct-acting antiviral agents that target specific proteins involved in HCV replication. Although these agents have shown promise, issues regarding resistance testing, optimal follow-up and efficacy in difficult-to-cure populations require further research.
Between 2001 and 2011, the standard of care for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was a combination of pegylated interferon (PEGIFN) and ribavirin (RBV). In May 2011, boceprevir and telaprevir, two first-generation NS3/4A protease inhibitors, were approved in combination with PEG-IFN and RBV for 24 to 48 weeks in hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infections. In December 2013, simeprevir, a second-generation NS3/4A protease inhibitor, was approved for use with PEG-IFN and RBV for 12 weeks in genotype 1, while sofosbuvir, a NS5B nucleotide polymerase inhibitor, was approved for use with PEG-IFN and RBV for 12 weeks in genotypes 1 and 4, as well as with RBV alone for 12 weeks in genotype 2 and for 24 weeks in genotype 3. Sofosbuvir combined with simeprevir or an NS5A replication complex inhibitor (ledipasvir or daclatasvir) with or without RBV for 12 weeks in genotype 1 resulted in a sustained virological response >90%, irrespective of previous treatment history or presence of cirrhosis. Similarly impressive sustained virological response rates have been shown with ABT-450/r (ritonavir-boosted NS3/4A protease inhibitor)-based regimens in combination with other direct-acting antiviral agent(s) with or without RBV for 12 weeks in genotype 1. The optimal all-oral interferon-free antiviral regimen likely entails a combination of an NS5B nucleotide polymerase inhibitor with either a second-generation NS3/4A protease inhibitor or an NS5A replication complex inhibitor with or without RBV. Further research is needed to determine the role of resistance testing, clarify the optimal follow-up duration post-treatment, and evaluate the antiviral efficacy and safety in difficult-to-cure patient populations.
PMCID: PMC4210236  PMID: 25229466
All-oral; Hepatitis C; Interferon-free; Simeprevir; Sofosbuvir
3.  The Molecular Basis of Drug Resistance against Hepatitis C Virus NS3/4A Protease Inhibitors 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(7):e1002832.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects over 170 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of chronic liver diseases, including cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Available antiviral therapies cause severe side effects and are effective only for a subset of patients, though treatment outcomes have recently been improved by the combination therapy now including boceprevir and telaprevir, which inhibit the viral NS3/4A protease. Despite extensive efforts to develop more potent next-generation protease inhibitors, however, the long-term efficacy of this drug class is challenged by the rapid emergence of resistance. Single-site mutations at protease residues R155, A156 and D168 confer resistance to nearly all inhibitors in clinical development. Thus, developing the next-generation of drugs that retain activity against a broader spectrum of resistant viral variants requires a comprehensive understanding of the molecular basis of drug resistance. In this study, 16 high-resolution crystal structures of four representative protease inhibitors – telaprevir, danoprevir, vaniprevir and MK-5172 – in complex with the wild-type protease and three major drug-resistant variants R155K, A156T and D168A, reveal unique molecular underpinnings of resistance to each drug. The drugs exhibit differential susceptibilities to these protease variants in both enzymatic and antiviral assays. Telaprevir, danoprevir and vaniprevir interact directly with sites that confer resistance upon mutation, while MK-5172 interacts in a unique conformation with the catalytic triad. This novel mode of MK-5172 binding explains its retained potency against two multi-drug-resistant variants, R155K and D168A. These findings define the molecular basis of HCV N3/4A protease inhibitor resistance and provide potential strategies for designing robust therapies against this rapidly evolving virus.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects over 170 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of chronic liver diseases, including cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. New classes of directly-acting antiviral agents that target various HCV enzymes are being developed. Two such drugs that target the essential HCV NS3/4A protease are approved by the FDA and several others are at various stages of clinical development. These drugs, when used in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin, significantly improve treatment outcomes. However HCV evolves very quickly and drug resistance develops against directly-acting antiviral agents. Thus, despite the therapeutic success of NS3/4A protease inhibitors, their long-term effectiveness is challenged by drug resistance. Our study explains in atomic detail how and why drug resistance occurs for four chemically representative protease inhibitors –telaprevir, danoprevir, vaniprevir and MK-5172. Potentially with this knowledge, new drugs could be developed that are less susceptible to drug resistance. More generally, understanding the underlying mechanisms by which drug resistance occurs can be incorporated in drug development to many quickly evolving diseases.
PMCID: PMC3406087  PMID: 22910833
4.  Antiviral therapies for chronic hepatitis C virus infection with cirrhosis 
World Journal of Hepatology  2015;7(8):1133-1141.
Patients who are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) and also have advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis have been recognized as “difficult-to-treat” patients during an era when peginterferon and ribavirin combination therapy is the standard of care. Recent guidelines have clearly stated that treatment should be prioritized in this population to prevent complications such as decompensation and hepatocellular carcinoma. Recent advances in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C have been achieved through the development of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs). Boceprevir and telaprevir are first-generation DAAs that inhibit the HCV NS3/4A protease. Boceprevir or telaprevir, in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin, improved the sustained virological response rates compared with peginterferon and ribavirin alone and were tolerated in patients with HCV genotype 1 infection without cirrhosis or compensated cirrhosis. However, the efficacy is lower especially in prior non-responders with or without cirrhosis. Furthermore, a high incidence of adverse events was observed in patients with advanced liver disease, including cirrhosis, in real-life settings. Current guidelines in the United States and in some European countries no longer recommend these regimens for the treatment of HCV. Next-generation DAAs include second-generation HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitors, HCV NS5A inhibitors and HCV NS5B inhibitors, which have a high efficacy and a lower toxicity. These drugs are used in interferon-free or in interferon-based regimens with or without ribavirin in combination with different classes of DAAs. Interferon-based regimens, such as simeprevir in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin, are well tolerated and are highly effective especially in treatment-naïve patients and in patients who received treatment but who relapsed. The efficacy is less pronounced in null-responders and in patients with cirrhosis. Interferon-free regimens in combination with ribavirin and/or two or more DAAs could be used for treatment-naïve, treatment-experienced and even for interferon-ineligible or interferon-intolerant patients. Some clinical trials have demonstrated promising results, and have shown that the efficacy and safety were not different between patients with and without cirrhosis. There are also promising regimens for genotypes other than genotype 1. Interferon is contraindicated in patients with decompensated cirrhosis, and further studies are needed to establish the optimal treatment regimen for this population. In the future, interferon-free and ribavirin-free regimens with high efficacy and improved safety are expected for HCV-infected patients with advanced liver diseases.
PMCID: PMC4450190  PMID: 26052402
Hepatitis C virus; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Interferon-free regimen; Liver cirrhosis; Direct-acting antiviral agent
5.  Hepatitis C genotype 4: The past, present, and future 
World Journal of Hepatology  2015;7(28):2792-2810.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype (GT) 4 represents 12%-15% (15-18 million) of total global HCV infection. It is prevalent in Northern and Equatorial Africa and the Middle East, and is also present in some countries in Europe. GT-4 (and subtype 4a in particular) dominates the HCV epidemic in Egypt. In underdeveloped countries, risk factors associated with HCV infection may be due to unsafe medical practices or other factors such as familial transmission, mother’s HCV status, or illiteracy. HCV prevention and control programs should include health education, increased community awareness towards the disease, controlling infection distribution in health-care centers, proper sterilization of medical and dental instruments, and ensuring safe supply of blood and blood-products. Response rates to a 48-wk combined pegylated-interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin (RBV) treatment range from 40%-69%, and HCV-GT-4 has been considered better than GT-1 but worse than GT-2 and GT-3 in treatment with PEG-IFN/RBV. However, with the introduction of the HCV-GT-1 effective protease inhibitors boceprevir and telaprevir in 2011, HCV-GT-4 became the “most difficult (GT) to treat”. Recently, the direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) with pan- genotypic activities simeprevir, sofosbuvir, and daclatasvir have been recommended in triple regimens with PEG-IFN/RBV for the treatment of HCV-GT-4. An IFN-free regimen will be available for treatment of all genotypes of HCV in the near future. To date, several DAAs have been developed and are currently being evaluated in various combinations in clinical trials. As new regimens and new agents are being approved by the Food and Drug Administration, we can expect the guidelines for HCV treatment to be changed. The availability of shorter, simpler, and more tolerable treatment regimens can reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with HCV infection. With such a large number of therapeutic agents available, we can end up with a range of choices that we can select from to treat patients.
PMCID: PMC4670951  PMID: 26668691
Hepatitis C virus; Genotypes; Transmission; Pegylated-interferon; Ribavirin; Direct acting antivirals; Hepatitis C virus vaccine
6.  Faldaprevir for the Treatment of Hepatitis C 
The current treatments for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection are combinations of direct-acting antivirals, and faldaprevir is one of the new generation of HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitors. At the end of 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitor simeprevir and the HCV NS5B polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir. Simeprevir or sofosbuvir in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin are available for clinical use. Faldaprevir, another HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitor that also has fewer adverse events than telaprevir or boceprevir, is under development. Of interest, faldaprevir in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin, and interferon-free treatment with faldaprevir in combination with deleobuvir plus ribavirin provides high sustained virological response rates for HCV genotype 1 infection. The aim of this article is to review these data concerning faldaprevir. Faldaprevir in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment appears to be associated with fewer adverse events than telaprevir or boceprevir in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin, and may be one of the therapeutic options for treatment-naive patients with HCV genotype 1. The interferon-free combination of faldaprevir and deleobuvir with ribavirin was effective for HCV genotype 1 infection and may hold promise for interferon-ineligible and interferon-intolerant patients.
PMCID: PMC4394460  PMID: 25749475
chronic hepatitis C; direct-acting antivirals; faldaprevir; genotype 1; protease inhibitor
7.  Computational Docking Study of p7 Ion Channel from HCV Genotype 3 and Genotype 4 and Its Interaction with Natural Compounds 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0126510.
The current standard care therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection consists of two regimes, namely interferon-based and interferon-free treatments. The treatment through the combination of ribavirin and pegylated interferon is expensive, only mildly effective, and is associated with severe side effects. In 2011, two direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs, boceprevir and telaprevir, were licensed that have shown enhanced sustained virologic response (SVR) in phase III clinical trial, however, these interferon-free treatments are more sensitive to HCV genotype 1 infection. The variable nature of HCV, and the limited number of inhibitors developed thus aim in expanding the repertoire of available drug targets, resulting in targeting the virus assembly therapeutically.
We conducted this study to predict the 3D structure of the p7 protein from the HCV genotypes 3 and 4. Approximately 63 amino acid residues encoded in HCV render this channel sensitive to inhibitors, making p7 a promising target for novel therapies. HCV p7 protein forms a small membrane known as viroporin, and is essential for effective self-assembly of large channels that conduct cation assembly and discharge infectious virion particles.
In this study, we screened drugs and flavonoids known to disrupt translation and production of HCV proteins, targeted against the active site of p7 residues of HCV genotype 3 (GT3) (isolatek3a) and HCV genotype 4a (GT4) (isolateED43). Furthermore, we conducted a quantitative structure–activity relationship and docking interaction study.
The drug NB-DNJ formed the highest number of hydrogen bond interactions with both modeled p7 proteins with high interaction energy, followed by BIT225. A flavonoid screen demonstrated that Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), nobiletin, and quercetin, have more binding modes in GT3 than in GT4. Thus, the predicted p7 protein molecule of HCV from GT3 and GT4 provides a general avenue to target structure-based antiviral compounds.
We hypothesize that the inhibitors of viral p7 identified in this screen may be a new class of potent agents, but further confirmation in vitro and in vivo is essential. This structure-guided drug design for both GT3 and GT4 can lead to the identification of drug-like natural compounds, confirming p7 as a new target in the rapidly increasing era of HCV.
PMCID: PMC4451521  PMID: 26030803
8.  Antiviral treatment of hepatitis C virus infection and factors affecting efficacy 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the leading cause of chronic liver-related diseases, including cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Currently, no effective vaccine is available for HCV infection. Polyethylene glycol interferon-α (PegIFN-α) in combination with ribavirin (RBV) is the standard of care (SOC) for chronic hepatitis C. However, the efficacy of PegIFN-α and RBV combination therapy is less than 50% for genotype 1 HCV, which is the dominant virus in humans. In addition, IFN and RBV have several severe side effects. Therefore, strategies to improve sustained virological response (SVR) rates have been an important focus for clinical physicians. The serine protease inhibitors telaprevir and boceprevir were approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2011. The addition of HCV protease inhibitors to the SOC has significantly improved the efficacy of treatments for HCV infection. Several direct-acting antiviral drugs currently in late-stage clinical trials, both with and without peg-IFN and RBV, have several advantages over the previous SOC, including higher specificity and efficacy, fewer side effects, and the ability to be administered orally, and might be optimal regimens in the future. Factors affecting the efficacy of anti-HCV treatments based on IFN-α include the HCV genotype, baseline viral load, virological response during treatment, host IL28B gene polymorphisms and hepatic steatosis. However, determining the effect of the above factors on DAA therapy is necessary. In this review, we summarize the development of anti-HCV agents and assess the main factors affecting the efficacy of antiviral treatments.
PMCID: PMC3870549  PMID: 24379621
Hepatitis C virus; Treatment; Interferon; Protease inhibitors; IL28B protein; Polymorphisms; Viral load; Genotype; Hepatic steatosis
9.  Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Inhibitors: Current and Future Perspectives 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:467869.
Currently, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is considered a serious health-care problem all over the world. A good number of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) against HCV infection are in clinical progress including NS3-4A protease inhibitors, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase inhibitors, and NS5A inhibitors as well as host targeted inhibitors. Two NS3-4A protease inhibitors (telaprevir and boceprevir) have been recently approved for the treatment of hepatitis C in combination with standard of care (pegylated interferon plus ribavirin). The new therapy has significantly improved sustained virologic response (SVR); however, the adverse effects associated with this therapy are still the main concern. In addition to the emergence of viral resistance, other targets must be continually developed. One such underdeveloped target is the helicase portion of the HCV NS3 protein. This review article summarizes our current understanding of HCV treatment, particularly with those of NS3 inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3825274  PMID: 24282816
10.  Pharmacogenetics of hepatitis C: transition from interferon-based therapies to direct-acting antiviral agents 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has emerged as a major viral pandemic over the past two decades, infecting 170 million individuals, which equates to approximately 3% of the world’s population. The prevalence of HCV varies according to geographic region, being highest in developing countries such as Egypt. HCV has a high tendency to induce chronic progressive liver damage in the form of hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer. To date, there is no vaccine against HCV infection. Combination therapy comprising PEGylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin has been the standard of care for patients with chronic hepatitis C for more than a decade. However, many patients still do not respond to therapy or develop adverse events. Recently, direct antiviral agents such as protease inhibitors, polymerase inhibitors, or NS5A inhibitors have been used to augment PEGylated interferon and ribavirin, resulting in better efficacy, better tolerance, and a shorter treatment duration. However, most clinical trials have focused on assessing the efficacy and safety of direct antiviral agents in patients with genotype 1, and the response of other HCV genotypes has not been elucidated. Moreover, the prohibitive costs of such triple therapies will limit their use in patients in developing countries where most of the HCV infection exists. Understanding the host and viral factors associated with viral clearance is necessary for individualizing therapy to maximize sustained virologic response rates, prevent progression to liver disease, and increase the overall benefits of therapy with respect to its costs. Genome wide studies have shown significant associations between a set of polymorphisms in the region of the interleukin-28B (IL28B) gene and natural clearance of HCV infection or after PEGylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin treatment with and without direct antiviral agents. This paper synthesizes the recent advances in the pharmacogenetics of HCV infection in the era of triple therapies.
PMCID: PMC4075960  PMID: 25114601
hepatitis C virus; interleukin-28B polymorphisms; PEGylated interferon and ribavirin; direct-acting antiviral agents; pharmacogenetics; rational therapeutics
11.  Mouse Systems to Model Hepatitis C Virus Treatment and Associated Resistance 
Viruses  2016;8(6):176.
While addition of the first-approved protease inhibitors (PIs), telaprevir and boceprevir, to pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin (RBV) combination therapy significantly increased sustained virologic response (SVR) rates, PI-based triple therapy for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was prone to the emergence of resistant viral variants. Meanwhile, multiple direct acting antiviral agents (DAAs) targeting either the HCV NS3/4A protease, NS5A or NS5B polymerase have been approved and these have varying potencies and distinct propensities to provoke resistance. The pre-clinical in vivo assessment of drug efficacy and resistant variant emergence underwent a great evolution over the last decade. This field had long been hampered by the lack of suitable small animal models that robustly support the entire HCV life cycle. In particular, chimeric mice with humanized livers (humanized mice) and chimpanzees have been instrumental for studying HCV inhibitors and the evolution of drug resistance. In this review, we present the different in vivo HCV infection models and discuss their applicability to assess HCV therapy response and emergence of resistant variants.
PMCID: PMC4926196  PMID: 27338446
HCV; animal models; therapy; direct acting antiviral agents; humanized mice; resistance; deep sequencing
12.  Hepatitis C virus resistance to new specifically-targeted antiviral therapy: A public health perspective 
World Journal of Virology  2013;2(1):6-15.
Until very recently, treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been based on the combination of two non-viral specific drugs: pegylated interferon-α and ribavirin, which is effective in, overall, about 40%-50% of cases. To improve the response to treatment, novel drugs have been designed to specifically block viral proteins. Multiple compounds are under development, and the approval for clinical use of the first of such direct-acting antivirals in 2011 (Telaprevir and Boceprevir), represents a milestone in HCV treatment. HCV therapeutics is entering a new expanding era, and a highly-effective cure is envisioned for the first time since the discovery of the virus in 1989. However, any antiviral treatment may be limited by the capacity of the virus to overcome the selective pressure of new drugs, generating antiviral resistance. Here, we try to provide a basic overview of new treatments, HCV resistance to new antivirals and some considerations derived from a Public Health perspective, using HCV resistance to protease and polymerase inhibitors as examples.
PMCID: PMC3785043  PMID: 24175225
Specifically-targeted antiviral therapy; Direct-acting antiviral; Protease inhibitors; Polymerase inhibitors; Viral resistance
13.  Management of recurrent hepatitis C virus after liver transplantation 
World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG  2014;20(44):16409-16417.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the leading cause of death from liver disease and the leading indication for liver transplantation (LT) in the United States and Western Europe. LT represents the best therapeutic alternative for patients with advanced chronic liver disease caused by HCV or those who develop hepatocarcinoma. Reinfection by HCV of the graft is universal and occurs in 95% of transplant patients. This reinfection can compromise graft function and patient survival. In a few cases, the histological recurrence is minimal and non-progressive; however, in most patients it follows a more rapid course than in immunocompetent persons, and frequently evolves into cirrhosis with graft loss. In fact, the five-year and ten-year survival of patients transplanted because of HCV are 75% and 68%, respectively, compared with 85% and 78% in patients transplanted for other reasons. There is also a pattern of recurrence that is very severe, but rare (< 10%), called fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis, which often involves rapid graft loss. Patients who present a negative HCV viremia after antiviral treatment have better survival. Many studies published over recent years have shown that antiviral treatment of post-transplant HCV hepatitis carried out during the late phase is the best option for improving the prognosis of these patients. Until 2011, PEGylated interferon plus ribavirin was the standard of care, resulting in a sustained virological response in around 30% of recipients. The addition of protease inhibitors, such as boceprevir or telaprevir, to the standard of care, or the use of other direct-acting antiviral drugs may involve therapeutic changes in the context of HCV recurrence. This may result a better prognosis for these patients, particularly those with severe recurrence or factors predicting rapid progression of fibrosis. However, the use of these agents in LT still requires clarification in terms of safety and efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4248184  PMID: 25469009
Hepatitis C virus; Liver transplantation; Recurrence; Treatment
14.  Enhancing our understanding of current therapies for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) 
Current HIV/AIDS reports  2015;12(1):68-78.
Great progress has been made in understanding the HCV genome and its molecular virology. This understanding has culminated in the development of direct acting antiviral (DAA) agents targeting HCV viral proteins. Telaprevir (TVR) and boceprevir (BOC) were the first DAAs introduced for treatment of genotype1 HCV in 2011; when used in combination with pegylated interferon (pegIFN) and ribavirin (RBV), these protease inhibitors improved efficacy in patients with chronic HCV infection compared to the traditional dual therapy. However, this combination was associated with adverse events that often led to early termination of therapy. In late 2013, the FDA approved a second wave of DAAs, sofosbuvir (SOF) and simeprevir (SMV). The use of SOF with SMV opened the door for IFN-free combination regimens. This combination was highly efficacious and well tolerated in patients with HCV genotype 1. Sofosbuvir and ledipasvir (LDV) fixed dose oral combination (FDC) therapy were recently approved, elevating SVR rates to over 95%. We are anticipating the approval of additional IFN-free regimens with comparable efficacy and tolerability but with the addition of pangenotypic coverage, fewer drug-drug interactions and a high barrier to resistance. This review will summarize current management for chronic HCV infection.
PMCID: PMC4373591  PMID: 25761432
Direct acting antivirals (DAA); Protease Inhibitors; NS5A inhibitors; NS5B Polymerase Inhibitors; HCV/HIV co-infection
15.  New hepatitis C therapies in clinical development 
With the current standard of care for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, a combination of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin, sustained virologic response rates can be achieved in approximately 50% of patients only.
Improved understanding of the viral life cycle has led to the identification of numerous potential targets for novel, direct-acting antiviral compounds. Inhibitors of the NS3/4A protease are currently the most advanced in clinical development. Recently completed phase 3 studies of the two protease inhibitors telaprevir and boceprevir, each given in combination with standard of care, yielded sustained virologic response rates in the range of 66-75% in treatment-naive patients and 59-66% in treatment-experienced patients with HCV genotype 1 infection. Studies of second-generation protease inhibitors, with the potential advantage of improved potency, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics profile, are already underway.
Inhibitors of the HCV NS5A protein and NS5B polymerase are potentially active across different HCV genotypes and have shown promising antiviral efficacy in early clinical studies. Other emerging mechanisms include silymarin components and inhibitors of cell proteins required for HCV replication.
While improved formulations of current HCV therapies are also being developed, future hopes lie on the combination of direct-acting antivirals with the eventual possibility of interferon-free treatment regimens.
PMCID: PMC3352002  PMID: 21813371
chronic hepatitis C; direct-acting antivirals; protease inhibitor; polymerase inhibitor; NS5A inhibitor; cyclophilin inhibitor
16.  Hepatitis C virus NS5A inhibitors and drug resistance mutations 
Some direct-acting antiviral agents for hepatitis C virus (HCV), such as telaprevir and boceprevir have been available since 2011. It was reported that HCV NS5A is associated with interferon signaling related to HCV replication and hepatocarcinogenesis. HCV NS5A inhibitors efficiently inhibited HCV replication in vitro. Human studies showed that dual, triple and quad regimens with HCV NS5A inhibitors, such as daclatasvir and ledipasvir, in combination with other direct-acting antiviral agents against other regions of HCV with or without peginterferon/ribavirin, could efficiently inhibit HCV replication according to HCV genotypes. These combinations might be a powerful tool for “difficult-to-treat” HCV-infected patients. “First generation” HCV NS5A inhibitors such as daclatasvir, ledipasvir and ABT-267, which are now in phase III clinical trials, could result in resistance mutations. “Second generation” NS5A inhibitors such as GS-5816, ACH-3102, and MK-8742, have displayed improvements in the genetic barrier while maintaining potency. HCV NS5A inhibitors are safe at low concentrations, which make them attractive for use despite low genetic barriers, although, in fact, HCV NS5A inhibitors should be used with HCV NS3/4A inhibitors, HCV NS5B inhibitors or peginterferon plus ribavirin. This review article describes HCV NS5A inhibitor resistance mutations and recommends that HCV NS5A inhibitors be used in combination regimens potent enough to prevent the emergence of resistant variants.
PMCID: PMC3961994  PMID: 24659881
ACH-3102; Direct-acting antiviral agents; Daclatasvir; Hepatitis C virus; Ledipasvir
17.  Boceprevir: a novel nonstructural 3 (NS3) protease inhibitor for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection 
Chronic hepatitis C infection is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with hepatitis C related cirrhosis being the most common indication for transplant and a major cause for the increase in hepatocellular carcinoma worldwide. Treatment for hepatitis C has consisted of nonspecific immunomodulatory therapies that stimulate the immune system and inhibit hepatitis C replication. Pegylated (peg-)interferon and ribavirin have been the standard of care with an overall sustained response rate of 40–50% in patients with genotype 1 infection, and 80% in genotype 2 or 3. Recently, direct-acting antiviral agents, including boceprevir, have demonstrated improved sustained response rates in patients with genotype 1 infection when given in combination with interferon and ribavirin. Boceprevir is a structurally novel hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural 3 (NS3) protease inhibitor that has demonstrated robust antiviral activity in HCV replicons. Clinically, in phase II and III trials, boceprevir 800 mg three times daily with peginterferon and ribavirin has led to improved sustained response rates in genotype 1 infection treatment-naive patients, relapsers, partial responders, and null responders. Phase II data have demonstrated that ribavirin is essential for optimal boceprevir response. Moreover, phase II data have suggested that a 4-week peginterferon or ribavirin lead-in strategy may reduce relapse rates and provide crucial on-treatment data for treatment response with boceprevir addition. Side effects of boceprevir when added to peginterferon and ribavirin are similar to peginterferon and ribavirin, though higher rates of anemia have been noted, with an incremental increase in erythropoietin use. The addition of boceprevir represents a major advance in patients with genotype 1 infection who are treatment naïve.
PMCID: PMC3342569  PMID: 22570678
hepatitis C; interferon; ribavirin; boceprevir; direct acting antiviral; resistance
18.  Profile of alisporivir and its potential in the treatment of hepatitis C 
Two classes of hepatitis C antiviral agents currently exist, ie, direct-acting antivirals and host-targeting antivirals. Direct-acting antivirals target viral proteins including NS3/NS4A protease, NS5B polymerase and NS5A protein, while host-targeting antivirals target various host proteins critical for replication of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Alisporivir is the most advanced host-targeting antiviral in clinical development. Alisporivir blocks HCV replication by neutralizing the peptidyl-prolyl isomerase activity of the abundant host cytosolic protein, cyclophilin A. Due to its unique mechanism of antiviral action, alisporivir is pangenotypic, provides a high barrier for development of viral resistance, and does not permit cross-resistance to direct-acting antivirals. Alisporivir has an excellent pharmacokinetic and safety profile. Phase I and II clinical studies have demonstrated that alisporivir causes a dramatic reduction in viral loads in HCV-infected patients. Alisporivir was shown to be highly potent in treatment-naïve and treatment-experienced patients with genotype 1 as well as in those with genotypes 2 or 3. Low viral breakthrough rates were observed and the most frequent clinical and laboratory adverse events associated with alisporivir in combination with pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin were similar to those associated with pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin used alone. A laboratory abnormality observed in some patients receiving alisporivir is hyperbilirubinemia, which is related to transporter inhibition and not to liver toxicity. The most recent clinical results suggest that alisporivir plus other direct-acting antivirals should provide a successful treatment option for difficult-to-treat populations, such as nonresponders to prior interferon-alpha therapy and patients with cirrhosis. In conclusion, alisporivir represents an attractive candidate component of future interferon-free regimens.
PMCID: PMC3578503  PMID: 23440335
alisporivir; cyclophilins; cyclophilin inhibitors; hepatitis C virus; treatment
19.  New agents for the treatment of hepatitis C in patients co-infected with HIV 
Pilot trials evaluating the efficacy and safety of the first licensed hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitors (PIs), boceprevir (BOC) and telaprevir (TVR), for the treatment of genotype 1 infection in HCV/HIV co-infected patients revealed similar results as in HCV mono-infected patients. HCV liver disease progresses more rapidly in co-infected patients, particularly with advanced immunodeficiency. Therefore, HCV treatment in HIV is of great importance. However, dual therapy with pegylated interferon (PegIFN) and ribavirin (RBV) has been associated with lower cure rates and increased toxicities in co-infected subjects, thereby limiting overall HCV therapy uptake. The availability of HCV PIs opens new perspectives for HCV cure in co-infected patients, with a 70% sustained virologic response (SVR) rate in HCV treatment-naïve patients. Despite these impressive advances, the use of the new treatment options has been low, reflecting the complex issues with modern triple HCV therapy. Indeed pill burden, adverse events (AEs), drug–drug interactions (DDIs) and high costs complicate HCV therapy in HIV. So far, studies have shown no tolerability differences in mono- and co-infected patients with the early stages of liver fibrosis. Regarding DDIs between HVC PIs and antiretroviral drugs, TVR can be safely administered with efavirenz (with dose adjustment of TVR), etravirine (ETR), rilpivirine, boosted atazanavir (ATV/r) and raltegravir (RAL), while BOC can be safely administered with ETR, RAL and potentially ATV/r for treatment-naïve patients under careful monitoring. Currently, the great number of HCV molecules under development is promising substantially improved treatment paradigms with shorter treatment durations, fewer AEs, less DDIs, once-daily administration and even interferon-free regimens. The decision to treat now with the available HCV PIs or defer therapy until the second generation of HCV direct acting antivirals become available should be based on liver fibrosis staging and fibrosis progression during follow up. More data are urgently needed regarding the efficacy of triple therapy in HIV/HCV co-infected patients who previously failed PegIFN/RBV therapy as well as in patients with more advanced fibrosis stages.
PMCID: PMC4040720  PMID: 25165545
HIV; hepatitis C; DAA; pegylated interferon; ribavirin
20.  Management of hepatitis C infection before and after liver transplantation 
Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) is the most common indication for liver transplantation (LT). Aggressive treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection before cirrhosis development or decompensation may reduce LT need and risk of HCV recurrence post-LT. Factors associated with increased HCV risk or severity of recurrence include older age, immunosuppression, HCV genotype 1 and high viral load at LT. HCV recurrence post-LT leads to accelerated liver disease and cirrhosis development with reduced graft and patient survival. Currently, interferon (IFN)-based regimens can be used in dual-agent regimens with ribavirin, in triple-agent antiviral strategies with direct-acting antivirals (e.g., protease inhibitors telaprevir or boceprevir), or before transplant in compensated patients to reduce HCV viral load to prevent or reduce the risk of post-LT recurrence and complications; they cannot be used in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. IFN-based regimens are used in less than half of HCV-infected patients waiting for LT due to extremely low efficacy and poor tolerability. However, antiviral therapy is indicated after LT in patients with histologically confirmed CHC despite tolerability issues. Improvements in side effect management have increased survival in patients achieving therapeutic targets. HCV treatment pre- and post-LT results in significant health care costs especially when lack of efficacy leads to disease worsening, although studies have shown sofosbuvir treatment before LT vs conventional post-LT dual antiviral is cost effective. The suboptimal efficacy and tolerability of IFN-based therapies, plus the significant economic burden, means the need for effective and well tolerated IFN-free anti-HCV therapy for pre- and post-LT remains high.
PMCID: PMC4402292  PMID: 25914454
Hepatitis C virus; Orthotopic liver transplantation; Interferon-free treatment; Decompensated cirrhosis; Chronic hepatitis C
21.  Finally sofosbuvir: an oral anti-HCV drug with wide performance capability 
Chronic Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the leading cause of advanced liver disease worldwide. The virus successfully evades host immune detection and for many years has hampered efforts to find a safe, uncomplicated, and reliable oral antiviral therapy. Initially, interferon and ribavirin therapy was the treatment standard of care, but it offered limited performance across the wide spectrum of HCV disease and was fraught with excessive and often limiting side effects. Sofosbuvir (SOF) is a potent first-in-class nucleoside inhibitor that has recently been approved for treatment of HCV. The drug has low toxicity, a high resistance barrier, and minimal drug interactions with other HCV direct-acting antiviral agents such as protease inhibitors or anti-NS5A agents. SOF is safe and can be used across different viral genotypes, disease stages, and special patient groups, such as those coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus. When used in combination with ribavirin or another direct-acting antiviral agent, SOF has revolutionized the HCV treatment spectrum and set the stage for nearly universal HCV antiviral therapy. More so than any other anti-HCV drug developed to date, SOF offers the widest applicability for all infected patients, and new regimens will be tailored to maximize performance.
PMCID: PMC4270038  PMID: 25540594
Hepatitis C virus; sofosbuvir; polymerase inhibitors; interferon-free treatment
22.  A Viral Dynamic Model for Treatment Regimens with Direct-acting Antivirals for Chronic Hepatitis C Infection 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(1):e1002339.
We propose an integrative, mechanistic model that integrates in vitro virology data, pharmacokinetics, and viral response to a combination regimen of a direct-acting antiviral (telaprevir, an HCV NS3-4A protease inhibitor) and peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin (PR) in patients with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C (CHC). This model, which was parameterized with on-treatment data from early phase clinical studies in treatment-naïve patients, prospectively predicted sustained virologic response (SVR) rates that were comparable to observed rates in subsequent clinical trials of regimens with different treatment durations in treatment-naïve and treatment-experienced populations. The model explains the clinically-observed responses, taking into account the IC50, fitness, and prevalence prior to treatment of viral resistant variants and patient diversity in treatment responses, which result in different eradication times of each variant. The proposed model provides a framework to optimize treatment strategies and to integrate multifaceted mechanistic information and give insight into novel CHC treatments that include direct-acting antiviral agents.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus chronically infects approximately 180 million people worldwide. The treatment aim for patients chronically infected with hepatitis C is viral eradication or sustained viral response (SVR). Historical standard of care for HCV treatment was peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin. Recently, approved HCV protease inhibitors, in combination with peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin, have demonstrated higher SVR rates compared to peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin alone. As members of a novel class of compounds directly targeting hepatitis C virus, HCV protease inhibitors have different mechanisms of actions and are affected by resistance and fitness of HCV variants. The significance of these different mechanisms of action, and the interplays between resistance and viral fitness to the treatment outcome has not been elucidated. Here, we developed and validated an integrative, mechanistic model of viral dynamics in response to a combination regimen including telaprevir, peginterferon-alfa, and ribavirin. The model was developed from early studies in 478 treatment-naïve patients and its SVR rate predictions were verified in 2380 patients in subsequent studies. These results provide an example of the use of mechanistic information to the development of viral dynamic model that has been useful in the design of optimal treatment regimens.
PMCID: PMC3252270  PMID: 22241977
23.  Anti-HCV drugs in the pipeline 
Current opinion in virology  2011;1(6):607-616.
Several directly-acting and host-targeting antivirals that inhibit hepatitis C virus replication have entered clinical trials. Amongst the most advanced of these are RG7128, an inhibitor of the NS5B polymerase; BMS-790052, an inhibitor of NS5A; and alisporivir, an inhibitor of human cyclophilins. These agents have potent antiviral activity in chronic HCV patients, act additively or synergistically with inhibitors of the HCV NS3/4A protease, and improve the rate of virologic response produced by traditional pegylated interferon plus ribavirin therapy. No cross resistance has been observed; moreover, nucleoside NS5B and cyclophilin inhibitors appear to suppress resistance to non-nucleoside NS5B and NS3/4A inhibitors. Several recent reports of virologic responses produced by combinations of agents that inhibit HCV replication in the absence of interferon provide optimism that eradication of HCV will be possible without interferon in the future.
PMCID: PMC3775341  PMID: 22440918
24.  The role of HCV proteins on treatment outcomes 
Virology Journal  2015;12:217.
For many years, the standard of treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was a combination of pegylated interferon alpha (Peg-IFN-α) and ribavirin for 24–48 weeks. This treatment regimen results in a sustained virologic response (SVR) rate in about 50 % of cases. The failure of IFN-α-based therapy to eliminate HCV is a result of multiple factors including a suboptimal treatment regimen, severity of HCV-related diseases, host factors and viral factors. In recent years, advances in HCV cell culture have contributed to a better understanding of the viral life cycle, which has led to the development of a number of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) that target specific key components of viral replication, such as HCV NS3/4A, HCV NS5A, and HCV NS5B proteins. To date, several new drugs have been approved for the treatment of HCV infection. Application of DAAs with IFN-based or IFN-free regimens has increased the SVR rate up to >90 % and has allowed treatment duration to be shortened to 12–24 weeks. The impact of HCV proteins in response to IFN-based and IFN-free therapies has been described in many reports. This review summarizes and updates knowledge on molecular mechanisms of HCV proteins involved in anti-IFN activity as well as examining amino acid variations and mutations in several regions of HCV proteins associated with the response to IFN-based therapy and pattern of resistance associated amino acid variants (RAV) to antiviral agents.
PMCID: PMC4678629  PMID: 26666318
Antiviral agent; Hepatitis C virus; Interferon; Mutation; Ribavirin
25.  A Novel Small Molecule Inhibitor of Hepatitis C Virus Entry 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(9):e1001086.
Small molecule inhibitors of hepatitis C virus (HCV) are being developed to complement or replace treatments with pegylated interferons and ribavirin, which have poor response rates and significant side effects. Resistance to these inhibitors emerges rapidly in the clinic, suggesting that successful therapy will involve combination therapy with multiple inhibitors of different targets. The entry process of HCV into hepatocytes represents another series of potential targets for therapeutic intervention, involving viral structural proteins that have not been extensively explored due to experimental limitations. To discover HCV entry inhibitors, we utilized HCV pseudoparticles (HCVpp) incorporating E1-E2 envelope proteins from a genotype 1b clinical isolate. Screening of a small molecule library identified a potent HCV-specific triazine inhibitor, EI-1. A series of HCVpp with E1-E2 sequences from various HCV isolates was used to show activity against all genotype 1a and 1b HCVpp tested, with median EC50 values of 0.134 and 0.027 µM, respectively. Time-of-addition experiments demonstrated a block in HCVpp entry, downstream of initial attachment to the cell surface, and prior to or concomitant with bafilomycin inhibition of endosomal acidification. EI-1 was equally active against cell-culture adapted HCV (HCVcc), blocking both cell-free entry and cell-to-cell transmission of virus. HCVcc with high-level resistance to EI-1 was selected by sequential passage in the presence of inhibitor, and resistance was shown to be conferred by changes to residue 719 in the carboxy-terminal transmembrane anchor region of E2, implicating this envelope protein in EI-1 susceptibility. Combinations of EI-1 with interferon, or inhibitors of NS3 or NS5A, resulted in additive to synergistic activity. These results suggest that inhibitors of HCV entry could be added to replication inhibitors and interferons already in development.
Author Summary
Approximately 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is a leading cause of chronic liver disease. Current treatments are not optimal; however, several molecules that inhibit HCV replication are in development. However, resistance to individual antivirals is likely to develop, requiring therapy consisting of a combination of drugs targeting different stages of the viral life cycle. The entry of HCV into hepatocytes is a multistep process, involving at least four cellular receptors, leading to virion endocytosis and fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. Unlike the HCV replication process, these steps have not been thoroughly exploited as targets for antiviral intervention. Therefore, we screened a small molecule library for inhibitors of HCV entry and identified a compound, EI-1, that potently blocked genotype 1a and 1b HCV infection. Importantly, EI-1 also prevented direct cell-to-cell spread of HCV, a potentially significant route of transmission in infected livers. In addition, our studies suggest that EI-1 susceptibility is mediated by the viral E2 envelope glycoprotein, as resistance in E2 can overcome inhibition. The antiviral activity of EI-1 is potentiated by combinations with other HCV inhibitors, demonstrating the value of entry inhibitors in potential combination antiviral regimens.
PMCID: PMC2936744  PMID: 20838466

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