Chemotherapy-induced neutropenia: risks, consequences, and new directions for its management

Cancer. 2004 Jan 15;100(2):228-37. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11882.


Cytotoxic chemotherapy suppresses the hematopoietic system, impairing host protective mechanisms and limiting the doses of chemotherapy that can be tolerated. Neutropenia, the most serious hematologic toxicity, is associated with the risk of life-threatening infections as well as chemotherapy dose reductions and delays that may compromise treatment outcomes. The authors reviewed the recent literature to provide an update on research in chemotherapy-induced neutropenia and its complications and impact, and they discuss the implications of this work for improving the management of patients with cancer who are treated with myelosuppressive chemotherapy. Despite its importance as the primary dose-limiting toxicity of chemotherapy, much concerning neutropenia and its consequences and impact remains unknown. Recent surveys indicate that neutropenia remains a prevalent problem associated with substantial morbidity, mortality, and costs. Much research has sought to identify risk factors that may predispose patients to neutropenic complications, including febrile neutropenia, in an effort to predict better which patients are at risk and to use preventive strategies, such as prophylactic colony-stimulating factors, more cost-effectively. Neutropenic complications associated with myelosuppressive chemotherapy are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, possibly compromised treatment outcomes, and excess healthcare costs. Research in quantifying the risk of neutropenic complications may make it possible in the near future to target patients at greater risk with appropriate preventive strategies, thereby maximizing the benefits and minimizing the costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Colony-Stimulating Factors / therapeutic use
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Neutropenia / chemically induced*
  • Neutropenia / complications
  • Neutropenia / drug therapy
  • Opportunistic Infections / complications
  • Risk Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Colony-Stimulating Factors