American Society of Clinical Oncology provisional clinical opinion: chronic hepatitis B virus infection screening in patients receiving cytotoxic chemotherapy for treatment of malignant diseases

J Clin Oncol. 2010 Jul 1;28(19):3199-202. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2010.30.0673. Epub 2010 Jun 1.


PURPOSE An American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) provisional clinical opinion (PCO) offers timely clinical direction to ASCO's membership following publication or presentation of potentially practice-changing information. This PCO addresses recommendations for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection screening in patients receiving cytotoxic or immunosuppressive chemotherapy for treatment of malignant diseases.

Clinical context: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Recommendations for Identification and Public Health Management of Persons with Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection, recommending screening for hepatitis B infection (hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg], antihepatitis B core antigen [anti-HBc], and antibodies to HBsAg [anti-HBs]) for "persons receiving cytotoxic or immunosuppressive therapy (eg, chemotherapy for malignant diseases...)."

Provisional clinical opinion: The evidence is insufficient to determine the net benefits and harms of routine screening for chronic HBV infection in individuals with cancer who are about to receive cytotoxic or immunosuppressive therapy or who are already receiving therapy. Individuals with cancer who undergo certain cytotoxic or immunosuppressive therapies and have HBV infection or prior exposure to HBV may be at elevated risk of liver failure from HBV reactivation. As such, HBV screening requires clinical judgment. Physicians may consider screening patients belonging to groups at heightened risk for chronic HBV infection or if highly immunosuppressive therapy is planned. Highly immunosuppressive treatments include, but are not limited to, hematopoietic cell transplantation and regimens including rituximab. Screening based on a high risk of prior HBV exposure or risk of reactivation due to planned therapeutic regimens should include testing for HBsAg as a serologic marker for HBV infection. In some populations, testing for anti-HBc should also be considered. There is no evidence to support serologic testing for anti-HBs in this context. When evidence for chronic HBV infection is found, antiviral therapy before and throughout the course of chemotherapy may be considered to reduce the risk of HBV reactivation, although evidence from controlled trials of this approach is limited. Screening and/or treating HBV infection should not delay the initiation of chemotherapy.

Note: ASCO's provisional clinical opinions (PCOs) reflect expert consensus based on clinical evidence and literature available at the time they are written, and are intended to assist physicians in clinical decision-making and identify questions and settings for further research. Due to the rapid flow of scientific information in oncology, new evidence may have emerged since the time a PCO was submitted for publication. PCOs are not continually updated and may not reflect the most recent evidence. PCOs address only the topics specifically identified in the PCO and are not applicable to interventions, diseases or stages of disease not specifically identified. PCOs cannot account for individual variation among patients, and cannot be considered inclusive of all proper methods of care or exclusive of other treatments. It is the responsibility of the treating physician or other health care provider, relying on independent experience and knowledge of the patient, to determine the best course of treatment for the patient. Accordingly, adherence to any PCO is voluntary, with the ultimate determination regarding its application to be made by the physician in light of each patient's individual circumstances. ASCO PCOs describe the use of procedures and therapies in clinical practice and cannot be assumed to apply to the use of these interventions in the context of clinical trials. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of ASCO's PCOs, or for any errors or omissions.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Medical Oncology / methods
  • Medical Oncology / standards
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Societies, Medical
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents