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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis B;
  • GMCSF;
  • HBV;
  • HBV combination therapy;
  • HBV genotype;
  • interferon;
  • lamivudine;
  • non-responders to interferon

AbstractBackground and Aims : Non-response to interferon (IFN) monotherapy is a major therapeutic problem in the management of chronic hepatitis B infection. The efficacy of combination therapy to enhance the immunomodulatory effect of IFN by combining granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GMCSF) or decreasing viral load by adding an antiviral agent such as lamivudine was evaluated prospectively.

Methods : Twenty-four patients with chronic hepatitis B who were non-responders to previous IFN therapy were randomized to receive an IFN and GMCSF (group A, n = 10) or IFN and lamivudine (group B, n = 14) combination for 6 months. The end-of-treatment response was assessed by hepatitis B virus (HBV)-DNA and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) determination.

Results : All patients successfully completed both the treatment schedules. The mean age, alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, liver histology, HBV-DNA levels and distribution of HBV genotypes were comparable between the two groups. At the end of treatment there was a significant decrease in mean ALT levels. The HBV-DNA and HBeAg loss was seen in six of 10 (60%) patients in group A and in seven of 14 (50%) patients in group B. During a mean follow-up of 15 ± 3 months, two of six (33%) patients in group A and three of seven (43%) patients in group B relapsed with HBV-DNA and HBeAg positivity, which meant an overall sustained response of 40% and 28%, respectively. None of the factors such as HBV viral load, ALT levels or liver histology could predict the non-response to combination therapy or occurrence of relapse. There was a trend in patients with genotype A compared with genotype D towards non-response to therapy, although the difference was not significant.

Conclusions : The combination of IFN plus GMCSF or lamivudine was effective in non-responders to IFN monotherapy. Larger studies using such combination therapies would be helpful in improving treatment strategies for chronic hepatitis B.

© 2002 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd