Relationship of smoking and fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Preliminary studies have suggested that in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC), cigarette smoking increases the risk for developing liver fibrosis. Hypoxia caused by smoking may induce expression of the cytokines' vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and VEGF-D and their corresponding soluble tyrosine kinase receptors fms-like tyrosine kinase receptor (s-Flt) and kinase insert domain receptor (s-KDR). These cytokine levels are increased in animals with cirrhosis and in human beings with CHC. We studied whether the concentrations of VEGF, VEGF-D, s-Flt, and s-KDR were increased in CHC smokers with and without hepatic fibrosis. METHODS: A total of 170 CHC patients were identified retrospectively from a single center's database. In 59 patients, serum levels of VEGF, VEGF-D, s-Flt, and s-KDR were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RESULTS: All 170 patients were hepatitis C virus RNA positive, 117 (69%) were men, 43 (25%) were smokers, and their mean (+/-SD) age was 47 (+/-6) years. Overall, 21% of smokers had Metavir fibrosis scores of 3 and 4 compared with 14% of nonsmokers (P < .01). In an age-weighted multivariate model using step-wise logistic regression, smoking, infection with hepatitis C virus genotype 1, male sex, and increased VEGF-D concentration all were significant independent predictors of more severe liver fibrosis (P < .05 for all observations). CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that CHC patients who smoke may have more hepatic fibrosis. The data also suggest that increased VEGF and VEGF-D concentrations are associated with smoking and may be involved in the molecular mechanisms of fibrogenesis.
Dev, A; Patel, K; Conrad, A; Blatt, LM; McHutchison, JG
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