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White cell count linked with chemo death

DURHAM, N.C., July 25 (UPI) -- A U.S. study showed cancer patients given a drug that stimulates white blood cell growth are less likely to die from chemotherapy-related complications.

The study -- led by researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Duke University's Comprehensive Cancer Center -- found such patients were significantly less likely to die from a chemotherapy-related complication characterized by fever and low white blood cell levels.

"Chemotherapy drugs target cancer cells but they can affect healthy cells as well, including infection-fighting white blood cells," said Dr. Nicole Kuderer, a Duke hematology-oncology fellow and lead author of the study. "When patients' white blood cell counts drop too low, they are at risk for dangerous infections that can cause death.

"Patients taking a drug known as granulocyte colony-stimulating factor early in their chemotherapy were about half as likely to develop dangerously low white blood cell counts with fever and half as likely to die from infection," Kuderer added. "This study represents an important part of the effort to better treat this common complication in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy."

The research, which included David Dale of the University of Washington, appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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