A recently released Amgen-supported survey conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc., shows that a majority of U.S. oncologists and infectious disease specialists are concerned about the rising incidence of infection among cancer patients. The data indicate another problematic issue: An increase in antibiotic resistance among immunosuppressed cancer patients.
Responding to this growing clinical problem, Amgen has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control Foundation and CDC to launch a three-year initiative to help improve infection control in the cancer patient population.
The survey included interviews with 430 cancer patients undergoing chemo (currently or within past 12 months), 150 oncologists, and 151 infectious disease specialists. The most commonly reported infection by both groups of doctors was methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); 96% of infectious disease specialists and 79% of oncologists found a marked increase in MRSA in cancer patients over the past five years (see “Prophylaxis fends off life-threatening invasive fungal infections,” April 2009, page 12).
Cancer patients unaware of risk
Interestingly, over half of infectious disease specialists said that antibiotics are effective at minimizing the risk of infection while more than half of the surveyed oncologists said that antibiotics are overused. An alarming number of cancer patients were unaware that they were at higher risk for infection and about 25% believed interrupting treatment, or lowering chemo dosage due to infection, was not a serious issue. The bottom line: These data showed that more than 60% of the patients had one or more infections and almost half of the patients were hospitalized (average, nine days) and had their cancer treatment disrupted.
The Amgen-CDC program will include, among other things, the development of evidence-based curricula for healthcare providers and an interactive online education tool for patients on what to expect from treatment and how to prevent and manage infection during their therapy.