The hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation rate among hepatitis B virus surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive patients undergoing chemotherapy ranges from 21 to 35% with a mortality rate of 4-41%. The risk is significantly evident in patients with aggressive lymphoma, which is highly responsive to standard chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunomycin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP) achieving a complete response rate of 60-80% and 5-year survival rate of 30-50% with only 1% of treatment-related mortality. α-Interferon and lamivudine were given as preemptive treatment for HBV reactivation in HBsAg-positive patients treated for aggressive lymphoma consecutively from 1994 to 1997 and 1998 to 2001, respectively, in our institution. The outcome of 77 HBsAg-positive patients treated for aggressive lymphoma at our institution from 1990 to 2001 was studied. Of these patients, 53 did not receive prophylaxis while 13 received subcutaneous α-interferon 3×106 U thrice weekly and 11 received oral lamivudine 100 mg/day simultaneously with chemotherapy. Seventeen patients in the non-prophylactic group experienced HBV reactivation (32%), seven of whom progressed to fatal fulminant hepatitis (41%), which is associated with 13.2% of the mortality rate among the non-prophylactic patients. None of the 24 patients in the prophylactic group had grade III or IV toxicity or elevated ALT level greater than fivefold exceeding 200 IU/l suggestive of clinical hepatitis that required dose reduction or delayed chemotherapy. Thus, preemptive use of α-interferon or lamivudine in HBsAg-positive lymphoma patients undergoing chemotherapy may be a promising approach to prevent HBV reactivation that carries a risk of delayed treatment or even fatal outcome.
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