Double β-lactam regimen compared to an aminoglycoside/β-lactam regimen as empiric antibiotic therapy for febrile granulocytopenic cancer patients


In a prospective, randomized trial, 205 febrile episodes in granulocytopenic cancer patients were treated with ceftazidime with or without tobramycin (C±T), both agents being administered only if the initial granulocyte count was below 200/μl, or ceftazidime plus piperacillin (C+P). The overall response rate was 71% (39 of 60 for C±T and 45 of 58 for C+P). Logistic regression analyses documented no evidence of a significant difference between the two regimens in overall treatment effect after accounting for the linear effects of potentially important variables, such as infection type and granulocyte count. Although the response rates for the subgroup of patients with bacteremias was better with the C+P regimen (P=0.06), there was no difference in response for patients with bacteremia and profound (<100/gml) sustained granulocytopenia. The double β-lactam combination demonstrated in vitro synergism in 73%; antagonism was not seen. Both regimens produced execllent serum bactericidal levels (C±T geometric mean peak 1:170; C+P peak 1:137) against gram-negative but not gram-positive pathogens (1:4; 1:7 respectively) that had caused bacteremia. Emergence of resistance and significant coagulopathy and/or bleeding did not occur during therapy. Antibiotic-related nephrotoxicity was noted in 7 of 95 trials in the C+P and in 6 of 89 trials in the C±T group (P=0.19). The incidence of secondary infections in patients with profound (<100/μl) sustained granulocytopenia was lower in the C±T group (P=0.04). Alimentary canal anaerobic flora preservation with C±T, and suppression with C+P, was demonstrated. These results suggest that these regimens are of similar effectiveness and neigher is associated with major toxicity.

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Correspondence to Stephen C. Schimpff.

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Joshi, J.H., Newman, K.A., Brown, B.W. et al. Double β-lactam regimen compared to an aminoglycoside/β-lactam regimen as empiric antibiotic therapy for febrile granulocytopenic cancer patients. Support Care Cancer 1, 186–194 (1993).

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Key words

  • Infection
  • Febrile neutropenic cancer patients
  • Double beta-lactam combinations
  • Beta-lactam-aminoglycoside combinations