Bloodstream infection in patients with head and neck cancer: a major challenge in the cetuximab era.


Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain. [Email]


OBJECTIVE : To assess the impact of bloodstream infection (BSI) in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) in the cetuximab era.
METHODS : We prospectively analysed the epidemiology, microbiology and outcomes of 51 BSI episodes occurring in 48 patients with HNC (2006-2017). We performed a retrospective matched-cohort study (1:2) to determine the risk factors for BSI. Finally, we compared patients who died with those who survived to identify risk factors for mortality.
RESULTS : The most frequent HNC localization was the oropharynx (43%), and pneumonia was the most frequent source (25%). Gram-positive BSI occurred in 55% cases, mainly due to Streptococcus pneumoniae (21%), and among Gram-negatives, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae were the most frequent. Hypoalbuminemia (OR 8.4; 95% CI, 3.5-19.9), previous chemotherapy (OR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.3-7.4) and cetuximab therapy (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.6-6.7) were significant risk factors for BSI. Patients with BSI had a higher overall case-fatality rate than patients without BSI (OR, 4.4; 95% CI, 1.7-11.8). Hypoalbuminemia was an independent risk factor for the early (7 day) and overall (30 day) case-fatalities, with ORs of 0.8 (95% CI, 0.6-0.9) and 0.8 (95% CI, 0.7-0.97), respectively. The presence of comorbidities (OR, 7; 95% CI, 1.4-34) was also an independent risk factor for overall case-fatality.
CONCLUSIONS : BSI causes high mortality in patients with HNC and is most often secondary to pneumonia. It occurs mainly among patients with hypoalbuminemia who receive treatment with cetuximab or chemotherapy. The development of BSI in patients with HNC impairs their outcome, especially in the presence of hypoalbuminemia and comorbidities.


Bloodstream infection,Cetuximab,Chemotherapy,Head and neck cancer,Hypoalbuminemia,