Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) announced on May 27, the results of a national Harris Interactive, Inc. survey indicating that the vast majority of oncologists and infectious disease (ID) specialists are highly concerned about the negative impact infection may have on treatment outcomes in chemotherapy patients, as well as emerging antibiotic resistance. Nearly all oncologists surveyed (92 percent) believe it is important for cancer patients to prevent infections to achieve successful treatment outcomes. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern among the majority of physicians surveyed, with 96 percent of ID specialists and 79 percent of oncologists reporting an increase in antibiotic-resistant infections in cancer patients over the past five years. Both groups of physicians report methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections as the most commonly observed in chemotherapy patients.

Cancer patients are at a higher risk for infection due to a compromised immune system caused by both the cancer and chemotherapy treatment. Neutropenia, a low white blood cell count, is a common and potentially dangerous side effect in patients receiving strong chemotherapy. It can lead to a heightened risk of infection that can require hospitalization and be life-threatening. Each year, 60,000 cancer patients are hospitalized for chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, and a patient dies every two hours from this complication. Neutropenia also can potentially disrupt chemotherapy treatment, including both dose delays and dose reductions. Studies show that for certain types of cancer, chemotherapy produces the best long-term results when patients receive the full dose on schedule.

The survey findings show that one in four chemotherapy patients report having an infection during treatment, with more than a third requiring a second course of antibiotics, said Sean Harper, M.D., chief medical officer and head of Global Development at Amgen. Infections associated with cancer treatment are increasing and are often serious, highlighting the need for a program to improve infection control and appropriate antibiotic management in these high-risk patients.

To help raise awareness of the risks and impact of infections in cancer patients, Amgen is joining forces with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation, and the Divisions of Healthcare Quality and Promotion and Cancer Prevention and Control at CDC on a three-year initiative to provide resources and educational tools to help cancer patients, their caregivers and healthcare professionals.

The initiative includes the development of evidence-based curricula for healthcare providers on infection control for cancer patients and appropriate antibiotic stewardship, and an interactive online education tool for patients on what to expect from treatment, as well as how to prevent and manage infection during treatment.

Programs to improve infection control in cancer patients, whose immune systems may be compromised by chemotherapy, will aid in saving the lives of these high-risk patients, said Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. This initiative will bring together experts in oncology and infectious disease to raise awareness of this public health concern, and reduce the risk of infections, and ultimately, related deaths.

Survey Result Highlights:

Infections among chemotherapy patients are fairly common.

  --  Nearly one in four patients surveyed (24 percent) had an infection in
  the last 12 months while receiving chemotherapy treatment. Of these
  --  61 percent had more than one infection;
  --  virtually all took at least a week to recover;
  --  22 percent reported taking four or more weeks to recover;
  --  52 percent had to go the emergency room due to an infection;
  --  42 percent were hospitalized, spending on average nine days in the
  hospital; and
  --  43 percent experienced chemotherapy treatment interruption.
  --  ID specialists report seeing an average of 36 chemotherapy patients with
  an infection in a typical month.

  --  57 percent of ID specialists and 28 percent of oncologists have observed
  methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections as the
  most common infection in chemotherapy patients.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern.

  --  Nearly all ID specialists (91 percent) report being very or extremely
  concerned about emerging antibiotic resistance in cancer patients.
  --  More than half of all patients (51 percent) are extremely or very
  concerned about antibiotic resistance.

  --  The issue of antibiotic resistance is the least likely to be discussed
  between physicians and patients, with 26 percent of oncologists (or
  nurses in their practice) discussing the issue before a cancer patient
  starts chemotherapy.

Oncologists believe antibiotics are overused in preventing infections.

  --  58 percent of oncologists believe antibiotics are overused in an effort
  to prevent infections in chemotherapy patients.
  --  Approximately half of ID specialists and oncologists surveyed said that
  antibiotics are effective at minimizing the risk of infection.

  --  There is general consensus among both ID specialists and oncologists (7
  in 10) that washing hands frequently, avoiding sick people and using
  proper food handling techniques are effective strategies in minimizing a
  chemotherapy patient's risk for infection.

Physicians are concerned about the impact of infections in cancer patients.

  --  87 percent of ID specialists are extremely or very concerned about the
  impact of infections on overall outcomes for chemotherapy patients,
  including overall survival and disease-free survival.
  --  Nearly half of cancer patients are not even aware that chemotherapy puts
  them at greater risk for an infection, and significant minorities of
  patients do not realize that an infection may in fact negatively impact
  the outcomes of their chemotherapy treatment.
  --  36 percent disagree or strongly disagree that their chances for
  successful cancer treatment could be lower due to a dose reduction
  and/or delay in their chemotherapy schedule;
  --  one out of four patients believes it doesn't matter if they
  have to take a break from their chemotherapy schedule, because they
  can just start back up again later; and
  --  almost one-quarter of patients (22 percent) believe it doesn't
  matter if their doctor lowers the dose of chemotherapy treatment,
  because the doctor can always increase the dose later without any
  effect on overall treatment.