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Risk of Bacterial, Viral, and Fungal Infections in Patients With Solid Malignant Tumors Treated With Curative Intent Radiation Therapy

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Purpose: The incidence, etiology, and association of infections with radiation therapy (RT)-induced lymphopenia in patients with solid tumors is not well elucidated.

Methods and Materials: We identified possible, probable, and definite infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses, combining data on medication, microbiology, and diagnoses. Definite infections had either a diagnosis or a positive microbiological isolation. We analyzed the incidence and adjusted incidence-rate ratio of infections in the year after the start of RT among patients who received RT plus chemotherapy and RT monotherapy, by type of infection and according to the degree of RT-induced lymphopenia.

Results: A total of 4450 of 6334 (70.3%) patients experienced 11264 infections overall; 1424 (22.5%) patients developed 2104 definite infections in the first year after RT. Infections were more frequent among patients who received RT plus chemotherapy (2590 of 3469; incidence: 16.5 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 16.1-17.0], per 100 patient-years) compared with patients who received RT monotherapy (1860 of 2865; incidence: 12.7 [95% CI, 12.3-13.2]). The incidence of infection was highest in the first 3 months overall (28.2 vs 18.0 in patients who received RT plus chemotherapy compared with those who received RT monotherapy) and for definite infections (4.7 vs 3.8). The proportion of specific bacterial infections were similar among patients who received RT plus chemotherapy versus those who received RT monotherapy. Urinary tract infections were the most frequent (51.2% vs 56.2%), followed by pneumonias (24.1% vs 22.4%). Viral and fungal infections were more frequent among patients who received RT plus chemotherapy, but they were uncommon. In multivariable analyses, patients who received RT plus chemotherapy with a lymphopenia grade of 1-2 or ≥3 versus no lymphopenia at end of RT had an increased risk of bacterial infections 0 to 3 months after RT (incidence rate ratio, 1.45 [95% CI, 1.06-1.97] and 1.71 [95% CI, 1.26-2.34], respectively). Limiting to definite bacterial infections, the incidence rate ratio for lymphopenia grade ≥3 versus no lymphopenia was 2.66 (95% CI, 1.40-5.03).

Conclusions: The incidence of bacterial infections 0 to 3 months after RT plus chemotherapy for solid tumors was high, especially among patients with RT-induced lymphopenia grade 1-2 and ≥3.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100950
JournalAdvances in radiation oncology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)100950
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2022

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© 2022 The Authors.

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