Plasma IL-8 and IL-6 levels can be used to define a group with low risk of septicaemia among cancer patients with fever and neutropenia

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The standard therapy for patients with fever and chemotherapy-related neutropenia is hospitalization and infusion of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Early discharge of a defined group of patients at low risk for septicaemia would be of great advantage for these patients. In this study plasma interleukin-8 (IL-8) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels measured at start of fever (n=72) could define a low-risk group of febrile patients with neutropenia due to chemotherapy. For this purpose we collected and analysed data on 72 fever episodes from 53 patients with chemotherapy-related neutropenia, aged between 1 and 66 years. Of the 72 episodes, 18 were classified as bacteraemia and/or clinical sepsis (sepsis group). The IL-6 and IL-8 plasma concentration were significantly increased in patients with chemotherapy-related neutropenia and fever due to bacteraemia versus fever of non-bacterial origin (P=0.043 and P=0.022 respectively). Logistic regression analysis, with sepsis as the outcome variable, revealed significant effects of age combined with either IL-6 or IL-8. Sepsis occurrence was lowest for patients <16 years and highest in patients between 16 and 50 years, and was higher in patients with increased IL-6 (P=0.032) or IL-8 (P=0.049). No significant effect of leucocyte count, C-reactive protein, sex or underlying malignancy at presentation was detected. The plasma IL-6 and IL-8 levels were fairly strongly correlated (Pearson r=0.62). Using a cut-off value with 100% sensitivity, both IL-8 and IL-6 could define a low-risk group of neutropenic patients of 28% (CI 15-40%) at the start of the febrile period. Intervention studies are warranted to confirm this result and to investigate whether an early discharge based on IL-8 or IL-6 measurement is safe, increases the quality of life, and results in cost savings.

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