Stem Cell

Antibiotic ineffective at preventing lung complication after stem cell transplant: Study

Researchers stopped testing an antibiotic to prevent a lung complication in BOS patients after they found it was increasing risk for the condition. Photo by ragonmages/Shutterstock

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 9, 2017 — An antibiotic treatment intended to lower stem cell transplant patients’ risk of developing a respiratory complication appears to have backfired.

French researchers explored the potential of administering the antibiotic azithromycin before and after stem cell transplantation to limit the risk for a condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome, or BOS.

A significant number of blood cancer patients who undergo allogeneic stem cell transplant are at risk for developing BOS. It’s a potentially deadly complication in which airflow to the lungs becomes progressively obstructed, turning routine breathing into an ordeal. Allogeneic transplants are ones where genetically similar, but not identically matched, material is transplanted.

The new investigation had to be stopped prematurely — after just over a year. Preliminary indications suggested that the random pool of allogeneic stem cell transplant patients treated with antibiotics were actually more likely to develop BOS than those who were not getting azithromycin.

Dr. Henry Fung serves as vice chair of hematology and oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Although he was not a part of the current investigation, Fung was familiar with the results of the study and said, “in the absence of new scientific rationale on using azithromycin, a similar study should not be repeated.”

Azithromycin “will…