1Department of General Internal Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.
Hepatitis B virus reactivation (HBVr) can be a serious complication of cancer chemotherapy. However, underutilization of HBV screening and secondary underutilization of antiviral prophylaxis have been frequently reported. The authors electronically distributed a 30-point questionnaire to members of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases to capture experiences with HBVr during cancer chemotherapy. The questionnaire specified diagnostic criteria and collected information on HBV screening, antiviral prophylaxis and clinical outcomes. Ninety-nine respondents reported 188 patients who met the criteria for HBV reactivation. Forty-one practised outside the United States, and most were hepatologists (n = 71) or gastroenterologists (n = 12). One hundred and twenty-six patients had haematologic malignancies, of which 88 (70%) had lymphoma. Seventy-five patients (40%) had screening for both hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc), and an additional 24 patients (13%) had HBsAg screening alone. Prophylactic antiviral therapy was reported in only 18 patients (10%). Chemotherapy was interrupted in 52 patients (41%) with haematologic malignancies and 26 of 41 patients (63%) with solid tumours (P = 0.01). Rituximab-treated patients (n = 66) required hospitalization more frequently (P = 0.04), but their overall survival did not differ from individuals not treated with rituximab. Death due to liver failure was reported in 43 patients overall (23%). Underutilization of prophylactic antiviral therapy occured in a substantial number of patients who were found to be HBV infected prior to the initiation of cancer chemotherapy. The reasons for this need further exploration because reactivation results in serious yet preventable outcomes.