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.

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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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