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Research findings expected to ease treatment of low neutrophil counts in cancer patients
Date:3/10/2010

For patients like 10-year-old Sabrina Jo Spence, new research led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators meant fewer injections to combat the drop in white blood cells following her recent chemotherapy.

"Cool," Sabrina told Sheri Spunt, M.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Oncology, after hearing the news and breaking into what Sabrina called her "happy dance." Sabrina is battling rhabdomyosarcoma.

Spunt is Sabrina's doctor and lead author of a study expected to transform how children like Sabrina are treated for neutropenia. Neutropenia is the dangerous drop in white blood cells that leaves cancer patients at increased risk for infections and can delay chemotherapy. The work appears in the March 10 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In a study of 44 young cancer patients, investigators reported that the drugs pegfilgrastim and filgrastim were similarly safe and effective at restoring a safe level of neutrophils following chemotherapy. But pegfilgrastim treatment required a single injection, while filgrastim involved daily injections for a week or longer. The trial was a multicenter, randomized, open-label study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the two drugs as well as how they are used and metabolized in the body.

"This study will make a big impact on the quality of life for patients and their families," Spunt said.

Both drugs are synthetic growth factors designed to stimulate production of neutrophils. Neutrophils are made in the bone marrow and protect against bacterial and fungal infections. They are often short-term casualties of chemotherapy. Filgrastim has been widely used to speed neutrophil recovery. Pegfilgrastim was developed as a longer-acting version of filgrastim. It is approved for use in adults.

Although the study focused on patients with sarcomas such as rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma, Spunt said the results will likely change neu
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Contact: Summer Freeman
summer.freeman@stjude.org
901-595-3061
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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