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Br J Cancer. 2001 September; 85(6): 816–822.
PMCID: PMC2375083

Identification of patients at risk for early death after conventional chemotherapy in solid tumours and lymphomas


1–5% of cancer patients treated with cytotoxic chemotherapy die within a month after the administration of chemotherapy. Risk factors for these early deaths (ED) are not well known. The purpose of this study was to establish a risk model for ED after chemotherapy applicable to all tumour types. The model was delineated in a series of 1051 cancer patients receiving a first course of chemotherapy in the Department of Medicine of the Centre Léon Bérard (CLB) in 1996 (CLB-1996 cohort), and then validated in a series of patients treated in the same department in 1997 (CLB-1997), in a prospective cohort of patients with aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) (CLB-NHL), and in a prospective cohort of patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC series) receiving first-line chemotherapy. In the CLB-1996 series, 43 patients (4.1%) experienced early. In univariate analysis, age > 60, PS > 1, lymphocyte (ly) count ≤ 700 μl−1 immediately prior to chemotherapy (d1), d1-platelet count ≤ 150 Gl−1, and the type of chemotherapy were significantly correlated to the risk of early death (P ≤ 0.01). Using logistic regression, PS > 1 (hazard ratio 3.9 (95% Cl 2.0–7.5)) and d1-ly count ≤ 700 μl−1 (3.1 (95% Cl 1.6–5.8)) were identified as independent risk factors for ED. The calculated probability of ED was 20% (95% Cl 10–31) in patients with both risk factors, 6% (95% Cl 4–9) for patients with only 1 risk factor, and 1.7% (95% Cl 0.9–3) for patients with none of these 2 risk factors. In the CLB-97, CLB-NHL and MBC validation series, the observed incidences of early death in patients with both risk factors were 19%, 25% and 40% respectively and did not differ significantly from those calculated in the model. In conclusion, poor performance status and lymphopenia identify a subgroup of patients at high risk for early death after chemotherapy. © 2001 Cancer Research Campaign

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