Hepatitis Is Common in New Cancer Patients

A new study by co-lead investigator Dawn L. Hershman, MD, MS, a member of Columbia's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), found that many newly diagnosed cancer patients also are infected with hepatitis B or C virus—and are unaware of their viral status. New cancer patients are rarely screened for viral infections, which, notes Dr. Hershman, is "a significant missed clinical opportunity," since there are effective treatments for HIV and hepatitis B, and that hepatitis C can be cured. The study was published today in JAMA Oncology.

As reported by Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) Newsroom, experts disagree over the value of routine screening for hepatitis B and C and HIV in new cancer patients. “While routine screening would likely be helpful, it would also be very expensive,” says Dr. Hershman, who has appointments at CUIMC/NewYork-Presbyterian. “This study is a first step toward determining the prevalence of viral infections among newly diagnosed cancer patients and establishing new screening and treatment guidelines.”

The study, “Prevalence of Hepatitis B Virus, Hepatitis C Virus, and HIV Infection Among Patients with Newly Diagnosed Cancer From Academic and Community Oncology Practices," was operated by SWOG Cancer Research Network. Dr. Hershman is a recognized expert in breast cancer research and leading physician. At Columbia, she is professor of medicine and epidemiology and directs the Breast Cancer Program at HICCC.