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Many New Cancer Patients Unaware of Their Hepatitis Status

Large proportion of participants with newly diagnosed cancer learned of infection through study

blood specimen

TUESDAY, Jan. 22, 2019 (Pharmacist's Briefing) -- A substantial proportion of patients with newly diagnosed cancer and concurrent hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are unaware of their viral infection at the time of cancer diagnosis, according to a study published online Jan. 17 in JAMA Oncology.

Scott D. Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues estimated the prevalence of HBV, HCV, and HIV infection among 3,051 patients with newly diagnosed cancer (median age, 60.6 years) seen at nine academic and nine community oncology institutions affiliated with the SWOG Cancer Research Network.

The researchers found that the infection rate was 6.5 percent for previous HBV infection, 0.6 percent for chronic HBV, 2.4 percent for HCV, and 1.1 percent for HIV. Several patients with viral infections were newly diagnosed through the study (eight patients with chronic HBV [42.1 percent], 22 patients with HCV [31 percent], and two patients with HIV [5.9 percent]). Among patients with infections, several had no identifiable risk factors (four patients with chronic HBV, 23 patients with HCV, and seven patients with HIV).

"Screening patients with cancer to identify HBV and HCV infection before starting treatment may be warranted to prevent viral reactivation and adverse clinical outcomes," the authors write. "The low rate of undiagnosed HIV infection may not support universal screening of newly diagnosed cancer patients."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

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