According to a study published in the journal Cancer, carriers of the hepatitis B virus were less likely to develop hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) during chemotherapy for lymphoma if they received preventive treatment with the anti-viral agent Epivir®-HBV (lamivudine).
Infection with the hepatitis B virus is common in many parts of the world. A carrier of the hepatitis B virus is a person who is infected with the virus but does not have symptoms of the diseases caused by the virus. Carriers of the hepatitis B virus who undergo chemotherapy for cancer have an increased risk of developing liver problems. These liver problems may result in liver damage, disruption of cancer treatment, or even death.
Epivir-HBV is an antiviral agent with activity against hepatitis B virus.
To evaluate whether preventive treatment with Epivir-HBV reduces the frequency and severity of liver inflammation in hepatitis B virus carriers undergoing chemotherapy, researchers in China conducted a study among 156 patients undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. A majority of the patients had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. All patients tested positive for hepatitis B virus.
Forty patients received preventive treatment with Epivir-HBV and 116 did not. Treatment was not randomly assigned, but the two groups were generally similar with respect to age, tumor type, and cancer treatment.
Patients who received preventive treatment with Epivir-HBV began treatment one week before chemotherapy, and continued treatment until at least eight weeks after completion of chemotherapy. Patients treated with Epivir-HBV had less liver inflammation:
- Liver inflammation developed in 18% of patients treated with Epivir-HBV and in 52% of the patients in the comparison group.
- Liver inflammation was less severe in patients treated with Epivir-HBV than in patients in the comparison group.
- Chemotherapy was disrupted in 10% of the patients treated with Epivir-HBV and in 37% of patients in the comparison group.
The researchers conclude that preventive treatment with Epivir-HBV significantly reduced the frequency and severity of liver inflammation in carriers of the hepatitis B virus who received chemotherapy for lymphoma. This was accompanied by fewer chemotherapy disruptions. Patients who are carriers of hepatitis B virus and are to undergo chemotherapy for lymphoma may wish to speak with their physician regarding the risks and benefits of preventive treatment with Epivir-HBV.
Reference: Li Y-H, He Y-F, Jiang W-Q et al. Lamivudine Prophylaxis Reduces the Incidence and Severity of Hepatitis in Hepatitis B Virus Carriers Who Receive Chemotherapy for Lymphoma. Cancer. 2006;106:1320-5.
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