Antibiotic resistance is the greatest threat to cancer patients

1 February 2024

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1 February 2024

by Manica Balasegaram

Cancer survival rates have never been higher, but nor have the costs of treating cancer, with the escalating price of powerful new drugs being the main driver. Given that the number of clinical trials for new cancer drugs is at an all-time high, and with the vast majority of new drug treatments costing more than $283,000 in the US per patient per year, this trend is expected to continue.

But such progress comes at a cost: a lack of investment in other kinds of drugs, particularly antibiotics, often a cancer patient’s last line of defence.

Infections are the second-leading cause of death among cancer patients, and lead to one in five being hospitalised during treatment. Given that many cancer therapies weaken the immune system, making patients more susceptible to infections, this is to some extent to be expected. But increasingly clinicians see infections that are becoming drug-resistant — antibiotics once effective against them no longer work. Without new and effective antibiotics, this is only going to get worse, with more people surviving cancer only to die of an infection that was previously treatable…


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