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According to a recent article published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology, preventive use of Epivir®-HBV (lamivudine) significantly reduces the reactivation of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in patients with nasopharyngeal cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Nasopharyngeal cancer, a type of head and neck cancer, originates in the the nose and back of the throat. Standard treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer typically includes radiation and chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, treatment with chemotherapy is associated with the reactivation of HBV in patients who have been diagnosed with and are carriers of the virus. Reactivation of HBV may result in damage to the liver, which ultimately may cause a disruption in treatment as well as a reduced quality of life. With the reduction of treatment, long-term outcomes, including survival may be compromised. Therefore, preventing HBV reactivation is crucial in carriers with cancer who are to undergo chemotherapy.

Epivir-HBV is an agent that is used to treat HBV. It belongs to a class of agents referred to as nucleoside analogs and works by stopping the spread of the virus within the body.

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Researchers recently conducted a study to evaluate using Epivir-HBV to prevent HBV reactivation in patients with nasopharyngeal cancer. This trial included 37 patients. Sixteen had received prophylactive Epivir-HBV prior to treatment with chemotherapy through 18 weeks following completion of therapy, and 21 had previously undergone chemotherapy with no prophylactive Epivir-HBV.

Overall, Epivir-HBV provided significant benefit in this group of patients:

  • No patients treated with prophylactive Epivir-HBV had reactivation of HBV, while nearly 30% of patients not treated with Epivir-EBV experienced reactivation of HBV.
  • Disruption of chemotherapy occurred less frequently among patients treated with prophylactive Epivir-HBV: approximately 19% in those treated with prophylactic Epivir-HBV versus approximately 68% in those not treated with Epivir-HBV.

The researchers concluded that the prophylactic use of Epivir-HBV significantly reduces the reactivation of HBV in patients with nasopharyngeal cancer undergoing chemotherapy. This is accompanied by a reduced risk of disruption of chemotherapy. Patients who are carriers of HBV and are to undergo chemotherapy for nasopharyngeal cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of prophylactic Epivir-HBV.

Reference: Yeo W, Hui E, Chan A, et al. Prevention of Hepatitis B Virus Reactivation in Patients With Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma With Lamivudine. American Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2005; 28:379-384.