Background: In patients with persistent fever and neutropenia, amphotericin B is administered empirically for the early treatment and prevention of clinically occult invasive fungal infections. However, breakthrough fungal infections can develop despite treatment, and amphotericin B has substantial toxicity.
Methods: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, multicenter trial comparing liposomal amphotericin B with conventional amphotericin B as empirical antifungal therapy.
Results: The mean duration of therapy was 10.8 days for liposomal amphotericin B (343 patients) and 10.3 days for conventional amphotericin B (344 patients). The composite rates of successful treatment were similar (50 percent for liposomal amphotericin B and 49 percent for conventional amphotericin B) and were independent of the use of antifungal prophylaxis or colony-stimulating factors. The outcomes were similar with liposomal amphotericin B and conventional amphotericin B with respect to survival (93 percent and 90 percent, respectively), resolution of fever (58 percent and 58 percent), and discontinuation of the study drug because of toxic effects or lack of efficacy (14 percent and 19 percent). There were fewer proved breakthrough fungal infections among patients treated with liposomal amphotericin B (11 patients [3.2 percent]) than among those treated with conventional amphotericin B (27 patients [7.8 percent], P=0.009). With the liposomal preparation significantly fewer patients had infusion-related fever (17 percent vs. 44 percent), chills or rigors (18 percent vs. 54 percent), and other reactions, including hypotension, hypertension, and hypoxia. Nephrotoxic effects (defined by a serum creatinine level two times the upper limit of normal) were significantly less frequent among patients treated with liposomal amphotericin B (19 percent) than among those treated with conventional amphotericin B (34 percent, P<0.001).
Conclusions: Liposomal amphotericin B is as effective as conventional amphotericin B for empirical antifungal therapy in patients with fever and neutropenia, and it is associated with fewer breakthrough fungal infections, less infusion-related toxicity, and less nephrotoxicity.