Most people know about common chemotherapy side effects like hair loss and nausea. But another common side effect is neutropenia, an abnormally low white cell count that can lead to fever and infection and land cancer patients in the hospital or even result in their death.
To fend off neutropenia, oncologists will often prescribe a biologic known as a primary prophylactic colony-stimulating factor, or PP-CSF, that helps boost a patient’s white cell count. But not all doctors use the same criteria to evaluate which patients get this drug and which don’t.
As a result, some cancer patients receive this medication when they don’t really require it and suffer needless side effects like severe bone pain. Other patients don’t receive it at all and endure far more serious consequences: fever, infection, hospitalization and the associated financial burden.
Thanks to a new $7.75 million research award, however, we will have an improved understanding of the neutropenia puzzle and better ways to reduce complications and improve the quality of patient care.
The funding, announced Tuesday, will be used by the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR), a research institute of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to conduct a pragmatic clinical trial evaluating the use of colony stimulating factors to reduce the risk of serious neutropenia-driven infections in patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast, colorectal or lung cancer.