News and Opinions  –  2020

New ReAct Policy Brief: Successful cancer treatment relies on effective antibiotics

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2020-05-28

Antibiotics are instrumental for patients undergoing chemotherapy and surgery, and have paved the way for modern cancer care. Cancer patients often need antibiotics multiple times during the course of cancer treatment, which is why antibiotic resistance is seriously threatening patient outcomes. In ReAct’s new policy brief, you will learn more about the links connecting effective antibiotics and cancer care, and why urgent action on antibiotic resistance therefore is needed.

The threats imposed by antibiotic resistance on modern cancer care need to be articulated and included in global policy debates about antibiotic resistance. In ReAct’s new policy brief, you can read more about antibiotic resistance and cancer, and how cancer societies could be important actors of change by engaging in the issue.

Dr. Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), says:

“Addressing antibiotic resistance is critical in improving cancer care outcomes globally and is a priority for UICC.

The time to address this issue is now, we therefore welcome ReAct’s work on highlighting the threat of antibiotic resistance in cancer care and look forward to working together in raising awareness on this issue and mobilize action towards change.
Furthermore, the lack of access in low resource settings and the excessive irrational use of antibiotics need to be addressed.”

Antibiotic resistance may limit the arsenal of cancer treatments

In the long run, antibiotic resistance may not only affect the possibilities of treating cancer patients’ infections, but also what kind of cancer treatment that can be offered. The risks of contracting resistant surgical site-infections must be weighed against the benefits of surgery, as would the risks of untreatable bloodstream infections have to be balanced against the benefits of chemotherapy. In fact, doctors in some countries need to do these type of analyses already today, as pointed out in an article published in Bloomberg in September last year. The article describes how cancer patients in India are faced with the impossible choice of either being treated for cancer and face a high risk of dying in an untreatable infection, or abstaining from treatment and risk dying from the cancer itself.

Effective antibiotics saved Alice’s life while she was treated for breast cancer

Alice needed chemotherapy. The therapy weakened her immune system and made it easier for bacteria to enter her bloodstream and she then needed antibiotics. This happened several times during her cancer treatment. Alice’s story was shared in a video (above) produced by British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC). Her story is unfortunately not unique. Severe infections are a common complication that often hit patients with cancer.