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Stanford study finds new method improves chemotherapy survival in mice

STANFORD, Calif. - Seeking to find a way to lessen patients' vulnerability to deadly infections following chemotherapy, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have figured out a way to boost the immune function in animals following such treatments. Their approach involves increasing the pool of cells that give rise to neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that is critical for fighting bacterial and fungal infections but is particularly ravaged by chemotherapy.

"Our approach hadn't been studied before, which is interesting because it's a very straightforward concept," said study leader Janice "Wes" Brown, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of bone marrow transplantation and infectious diseases.

The team reported that an infusion of a type of bone marrow cell from a donor mouse yielded significantly more neutrophils in the laboratory mice a week after a dose of a typical chemotherapeutic agent. The procedure also increased the animals' ability to fight a deadly fungal infection. The team's findings appear in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Blood.

The condition in which neutrophils are lacking is known as neutropenia. It is the leading cause of death among cancer patients that is not related to their tumor. Because of the seriousness of the condition, doctors will reduce chemotherapy doses if they notice an infection developing in the early phases of the disease, which can decrease the efficacy of the cancer treatment. Additionally, resulting fevers and infections during neutropenia must be fought with antibiotics and antifungals, which can be toxic and spur resistance.

"Clinicians see neutropenia all the time and follow the usual protocols of antibiotics and antifungals," said Brown, who is the sole infectious disease consultant for the bone marrow transplantation division. "We thought, 'Why are we just waiting for the neutropenia to resolve or for the patient to develop an in
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Contact: Mitzi Baker
mitzibaker@stanford.edu
650-725-2106
Stanford University Medical Center
14-Dec-2004


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