Early promise of new treatment to reduce infection associated with chemotherapy

January 23, 2003

Authors of a fast-track study in this week's issue of THE LANCET propose an alternative to antibiotics to treat infection associated with the use of chemotherapy for patients with blood cancer.

The toxic effects of chemotherapy cause organisms in the gut to migrate to the bloodstream, frequently resulting in bacterial infection. Michael Ellis and colleagues from the United Arab Emirates investigated whether interleukin 11 (IL-11)-an agent involved in the immune response and thought to protect gastrointestinal cells from toxicity associated with chemotherapy-could prevent gut-associated infections.

40 patients with blood cancer received either 50 microgrammes per kg bodyweight of IL-11 or placebo as daily injections. Significantly fewer patients who received IL-11 rather than placebo developed bacterial infection, particularly of gastrointestinal origin. IL-11 slowed the time to first infection compared with placebo

Michael Ellis comments: "The administration of IL-11 reduces bacteraemia, predominantly of gastrointestinal origin, in patients with haemological malignant disease undergoing chemotherapy...the number of patients enrolled was small, so larger clinical trials should be done to confirm our findings. If our findings are substantiated, IL-11 could offer a new non-antibiotic approach to the management of sepsis in these patients."
-end-
Contact: Dr Michael E Ellis, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, PO Box 17666, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates;
T) 971-3722-3942;
E) michael.ellis@uaeu.ac.ae

Lancet

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