1. MRC Cancer Cell Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
2. Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection have a higher risk of developing liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Interferon-α, lamivudine and adefovir dipivoxil are the three approved treatment for chronic HBV infection and offers the only means of preventing the development of these complications. However, the efficacy of these agents, in terms of loss of Hepatitis B e antigen with or without seroconversion to Hepatitis B e antibody, normalization of serum alanine transaminase levels, loss of serum HBV DNA, and improvement in liver histology can only be achieved in 20-30% of those treated. Long-term treatment with either lamivudine or adefovir dipivoxil can result in the development of drug resistant mutants leading to an increased length of treatment with additional nucleoside analogues. These limitations of the current antiviral therapies underline the need for alternative therapies. Specific and nonspecific immunotherapeutic strategies to restore effective virus-specific T cell responses in those with chronic HBV infection offers an interesting alternative approach. These immunotherapeutic therapies include the adoptive transfer of HBV immunity, pegylated interferon and therapeutic vaccine therapies.
Keywords: immunomodulating therapy, HBV infection