Researchers say they discovered an anti-viral drug that helps reduce the risk of reactivating the hepatitis B virus in women who are being treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer.An estimated 12 percent of breast cancer patients carry the hepatitis B virus and these patients are at risk of developing HBV reactivation during chemotherapy, which is a well-known complication resulting in varying degrees of liver damage that may lead to death.
Chemotherapy works by suppressing the immune system, which allows the HBV to replicate and spread through the blood stream. After chemotherapy is completed, the immune system recovers, and its attempt to clear HBV causes flare-ups of the virus.
Researchers say the anti-viral drug lamivudine can reduce the risk of HBV reactivation during and after chemotherapy. This drug was initially used for treating HIV in AIDS patients.
A recent study compared the incidence of HBV reactivation between chemotherapy patients receiving lamivudine and a control group. Only 7 percent of the chemotherapy patients taking lamivudine suffered HBV reactivation compared to 41 percent in the control group.Thus researchers say that these results show very clearly that prophylactic lamivudine significantly reduces the incidence of both HBV reactivation and hepatitis.
Thus , specialists say it would be better if breast cancer patients who are hepatitis B carriers should have anti-viral treatment before the start of chemotherapy.