Condition category
Infections and Infestations
Date applied
Date assigned
Last edited
Prospectively registered
Overall trial status
Recruitment status
No longer recruiting

Plain English Summary

Background and study aims
Neutropenic sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of chemotherapy caused by a condition known as neutropenia, in which the number of white blood cells (called neutrophils) in the blood is low. Neutrophils help the body to fight infection. People receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment can be at risk of neutropenic sepsis because these treatments can temporarily lower the number of neutrophils in the blood. There is universal agreement that prompt antibiotic treatment is required, but less agreement about how best to manage patients thereafter. This study aims to find out whether changing from intravenous antibiotics (administered into a vein) to oral antibiotics on the first day of treatment is clinically and cost-effective in comparison with longer duration intravenous antibiotics in patients at low risk of complications.

Who can participate?
Patients undergoing chemotherapy who are admitted to hospital with low risk neutropenic sepsis.

What does the study involve?
Once you have consented you will undergo the required study tests and provide a blood sample, have your medical history and medications checked, and complete a short questionnaire. You will then be allocated to one of two groups. One group will switch from intravenous to oral antibiotics 12-24 hours after commencing intravenous treatment, for a total of five days antibiotic treatment. The other group will receive standard care intravenous antibiotics for at least 48 hours then either continue or switch to oral antibiotics at the doctor’s discretion. After leaving hospital you will take any remaining antibiotic tablets and complete a progress diary , and a nurse will phone you to check on your progress and go through two short questionnaires.

What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
The results of this study will inform the future medical care of patients who develop neutropenic sepsis while undergoing chemotherapy. The potential benefits of participating include fewer complications with intravenous lines, earlier discharge from hospital, higher quality of life and more cost-effective treatment. The potential risks of participating include antibiotic treatment failure, side effects of antibiotic treatment, and mild discomfort when providing one additional blood sample.

Where is the study run from?
Belfast City Hospital, The Freeman Hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary and Velindre Hospital (UK).

When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
The study is due to start recruiting at four pilot sites in November 2015. If successful the main study will recruit for an additional 30 months in 12 sites across the UK.

Who is funding the study?
NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme - HTA (UK).

Who is the main contact?
Dr Victoria Coyle

Trial website

Contact information



Primary contact

Ms Victoria Coyle


Contact details

Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology
Queens University Belfast
97 Lisburn Road
United Kingdom



Additional contact

Dr Nicola Goodfellow


Contact details

1st Floor Elliott Dynes Building
Royal Hospital Site
Grosvenor Road
BT12 6BA
United Kingdom



Additional contact

Dr Ronan McMullan


Contact details

Centre for Infection and Immunity
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Health Sciences Building
97 Lisburn Road
United Kingdom

Additional identifiers

EudraCT number

2015-002830-35 number

Protocol/serial number

HTA 13/140/05; 15040RM-SS

Study information

Scientific title

Early switch to oral antibiotic therapy in patients with low risk neutropenic sepsis: a randomised, controlled, non-inferiority trial with allocation concealment



Study hypothesis

Early switch to oral antibiotic therapy, 12-24 hours after intravenous antibiotic treatment commences in low risk cancer patients with neutropenic sepsis, is non-inferior to standard care.

Ethics approval

Office for Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland (ORECNI), 06/10/2015, ref: 15/NI/0161

Study design

Multi-centre interventional randomised controlled non-inferiority trial with allocation concealment

Primary study design


Secondary study design

Randomised controlled trial

Trial setting


Trial type


Patient information sheet

Not available in web format, please use the contact details to request a patient information sheet


Patients with low risk neutropenic sepsis


Intervention arm:
Switch to oral ciprofloxacin & co-amoxiclav, 12-24 hours after starting intravenous therapy with standard dose piperacillin/tazobactam or meropenem for at least 5 days total antibiotic treatment.

Standard care arm:
Intravenous therapy with standard dose piperacilin/tazobactam or meropenem for at least 48 hours (later discontinuation +/- oral antibiotic switch at physician discretion).

Intervention type



Phase IV

Drug names

Ciprofloxacin, co-amoxiclav

Primary outcome measure

Treatment failure defined as one or more of the following criteria are met by day 14:
1. Persistence or recurrence of fever (temperature >38oC) after 72hrs of starting intravenous antibiotic treatment
2. Physician-directed escalation from protocol antibiotic treatment
3. Re-admission to hospital (related to infection or antibiotic treatment)
4. Critical care admission
5. Death

Secondary outcome measures

1. Change in health-related quality of life EQ-5D-5L at baseline and 14 days
2. Cost-effectiveness of early switch compared to standard care at 14 days
3. Time to resolution of fever from initial IV antibiotic administration
4. Adverse events related to antibiotics
5. Duration of hospital admission
6. Readmission to hospital within 28 days
7. Death within 28 days
8. Adjustment to the subsequent scheduled cycle of chemotherapy within 28 days
9. Patient preferences for antibiotic treatment

Exploratory objective:
Identification of potential biomarkers for risk stratification in neutropenic sepsis

Overall trial start date


Overall trial end date


Reason abandoned (if study stopped)


Participant inclusion criteria

1. Age over 16 years
2. Receiving SACT for a diagnosis of cancer
3. Fever (temperature >38oC)
4. Neutropenia (absolute neutrophil count ≤0.5x109/L) within the 24 hours prior to randomisation
5. Received intravenous antibiotics (piperacillin/tazobactam or meropenem) for less than 24 hours
6. Expected duration of neutropenia <7 days
7. Low risk of complications using a validated risk score (MASCC score ≥21)
8. Able to maintain adequate oral intake and take oral medication
9. Adequate hepatic (AST and/or ALT <2.5xULN, or <5xULN if hepatic metastases) and renal function (serum creatinine <3xULN) within 24 hours prior to randomisation
10. Physician in charge of care willing to follow either the intervention or standard care protocol per randomisation, at enrolment, including not treating with colony stimulating factor (CSF)

Participant type


Age group




Target number of participants


Participant exclusion criteria

1. Underlying diagnosis of acute leukaemia or haematopoietic stem cell transplant
2. Hypotension (systolic pressure <90 mmHg) within the 24 hours prior to randomisation
3. Prior allergy, serious adverse reaction, or contra-indication to any study drug
4. Treatment with fluoroquinolone or penicillin antibiotics in the preceding 14 days
5. Enrolled in this trial with prior episode of neutropenic sepsis
6. Previously documented as being colonised with an organism resistant to a study drug regimen e.g. MRSA
7. Localising signs of severe infection (pneumonia, soft tissue infection, central-venous access device infection, presence of purulent collection)
8. Patients unable to provide informed consent
9. Pregnant women, women who have not yet reached the menopause (no menses for ≥ 12 months without an alternative medical cause) who test positive for pregnancy, are unwilling to take a pregnancy test prior to trial entry or are unwilling to undertake adequate precautions to prevent pregnancy for the duration of the trial
10. Breastfeeding women

Recruitment start date


Recruitment end date



Countries of recruitment

United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

Cancer Centre, Belfast City Hospital
United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

Velindre Cancer Centre, Velindre Hospital
CF14 2TL
United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

The Freeman Hospital
United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

Department of Cancer Studies, Leicester Royal Infirmary
United Kingdom

Sponsor information


Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (UK)

Sponsor details

Research Governance
2nd Floor KEB Building
Grosvenor Road
BT12 6BA
United Kingdom

Sponsor type

Hospital/treatment centre



Funder type


Funder name

Health Technology Assessment Programme

Alternative name(s)

NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme, HTA

Funding Body Type

government organisation

Funding Body Subtype

Federal/National Government


United Kingdom

Results and Publications

Publication and dissemination plan

To be confirmed at a later date

Intention to publish date


Participant level data

Available on request

Basic results (scientific)

Publication list

Publication citations

Additional files

Editorial Notes

24/03/2016: Ethics approval information added.