Source Department of Medical Oncology, Centre for Biostatistics and Clinical Trials, and Department of Infectious Diseases, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre; University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
PURPOSE: Universal screening for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) before chemotherapy has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. We sought to determine the practice of Australian oncologists with regard to HBV screening in patients with solid tumors (STs) and their clinical experience of HBV reactivation (HBVR).
METHODS: A survey was sent to all consultant members of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia. One hundred eighty-eight responses (63% response rate) were received. We also reviewed the incidence of HBV in patients with STs screened at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Melbourne, Australia).
RESULTS: Fifty-three percent of medical oncologists screen for HBV, but only 19% screen all patients. The most common reasons given for performing screening were anecdotal experience of HBVR (46%) and perceived sufficient evidence for screening of some patient subgroups (42%). Sixty-five percent of those who screened did so only in subgroups, usually selecting patients on the basis of ethnicity (82%). Oncologists who did not screen most commonly cited inadequate evidence for a benefit of screening (72%). Twenty-two percent of oncologists had witnessed one or more HBVR events, representing one event per 45 years of respondents' practice. HBVR events reported (n = 54) consisted of asymptomatic liver test abnormalities only (44%), symptomatic hepatitis (28%), decompensated liver failure (19%), and death (7%). In 206 patients with STs screened for HBV, 1.0% (n = 2) were HBV surface antigen positive, and 14.9% hepatitis B core antibody positive.
CONCLUSION: The majority of Australian medical oncologists have not adopted universal HBV screening before chemotherapy. Further evidence of the benefit and cost effectiveness of universal screening in patients with STs will be required to alter practice.