Humoral-mediated as well as cell-mediated immunity is compromised in myeloma patients receiving treatment. Immunocompromised patients are at risk of developing herpes zoster. There is evidence from clinical trials that bortezomib therapy is associated with a significant risk of herpes zoster. It is the authors' clinical policy to administer long-term acyclovir prophylactically to all symptomatic myeloma patients.
A retrospective review of the records of 125 myeloma patients who were treated with bortezomib and who also received routine acyclovir prophylaxis at the dose of 400 mg daily in >80% of patients was undertaken. Alternatives, used in <20% of patients, were 200 mg of acyclovir, 250/500 mg of valacyclovir, or 500 mg of famciclovir administered daily. This was accompanied by patient education regarding the importance of compliance with these prophylactic medications.
The duration of bortezomib therapy was 1 to 164 weeks (median, 16 weeks). The total duration of exposure to bortezomib was 4150 weeks (80 patient-years). Except for the occasional missed dose, the self-reported compliance with antiviral prophylaxis was 100%. Not a single episode of herpes zoster was reported during this period. No adverse effects were noted that could be definitely attributed to acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir.
Daily acyclovir (or a suitable alternative) appears to be effective at preventing herpes zoster virus in patients with myeloma who are receiving bortezomib, with or without corticosteroids. Cancer 2009. © 2008 American Cancer Society.