Intravenous and Oral Itraconazole versus Intravenous Amphotericin B Deoxycholate as Empirical Antifungal Therapy for Persistent Fever in Neutropenic Patients with Cancer Who Are Receiving Broad-Spectrum Antibacterial Therapy
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BACKGROUND: Amphotericin B deoxycholate is currently the standard empirical antifungal therapy in neutropenic patients with cancer who have persistent fever that does not respond to antibiotic therapy. However, this treatment often causes infusion-related and metabolic toxicities, which may be dose limiting. OBJECTIVE: To compare the efficacy and safety of itraconazole with those of amphotericin B as empirical antifungal therapy. DESIGN: An open randomized, controlled, multicenter trial, powered for equivalence. SETTING: 60 oncology centers in 10 countries. PATIENTS: 384 neutropenic patients with cancer who had persistent fever that did not respond to antibiotic therapy. INTERVENTION: Intravenous amphotericin B or intravenous itraconazole followed by oral itraconazole solution. MEASUREMENTS: Defervescence, breakthrough fungal infection, drug-related adverse events, and death. RESULTS: For itraconazole and amphotericin B, the median duration of therapy was 8.5 and 7 days and the median time to defervescence was 7 and 6 days, respectively. The intention-to-treat efficacy analysis of data from 360 patients showed response rates of 47% and 38% for itraconazole and amphotericin B, respectively (difference, 9.0 percentage points [95% CI, -0.8 to 19.5 percentage points]). Fewer drug-related adverse events occurred in the itraconazole group than the amphotericin B group (5% vs. 54% of patients; P = 0.001), and the rate of withdrawal because of toxicity was significantly lower with itraconazole (19% vs. 38%; P = 0.001). Significantly more amphotericin B recipients had nephrotoxicity (P < 0.001). Breakthrough fungal infections (5 patients in each group) and mortality rates (19 deaths in the itraconazole group and 25 deaths in the amphotericin B group) were similar. Sixty-five patients switched to oral itraconazole solution after receiving the intravenous formulation for a median of 9 days. CONCLUSIONS: Itraconazole and amphotericin B have at least equivalent efficacy as empirical antifungal therapy in neutropenic patients with cancer. However, itraconazole is associated with significantly less toxicity.