Empirical oral antibiotic therapy for low risk febrile cancer patients with neutropenia

Cancer Invest. 2002;20(3):420-33. doi: 10.1081/cnv-120001186.


For over 30 years, fever and neutropenia in cancer patients has been treated with the utmost urgency, necessitating inpatient evaluation and immediate initiation of empirical broad-spectrum parenteral (i.v.) antibiotics. This practice is based on the recognition that delays in starting antibiotic therapy in febrile neutropenic patients have been associated with life-threatening infections and sometimes fatal consequences. Over the past decade, it has become evident that neutropenic cancer patients are not a homogeneous group and that practice guidelines may vary on their risk status. In fact, attempts have been made to stratify patients into high-risk and low-risk groups and differentiate treatment options respectively. Recent studies suggest that those neutropenic cancer patients who are at low risk may even be successfully treated with oral therapy, thus opening the possibility for ambulatory or home-based management. Oral antibiotic therapy, especially if safely delivered at home, offers a number of advantages including lower cost, improved quality of life (although the impact of shifting the burden of care from the hospital to the home setting on the patient, parent or care provider needs careful assessment) and a decreased risk for nosocomial infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cost Control
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Fever / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neutropenia / chemically induced*
  • Neutropenia / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents