Fungal infections in neutropenic cancer patients have increased in frequency and constitute an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Empiric antifungal therapy is often administered to those patients who have failed to respond to antibacterial antibiotics. We conducted a prospective, randomized trial of amphotericin B and ketoconazole for 172 neutropenic cancer patients with presumed or proven fungal infections. Overall, amphotericin B and ketoconazole were equally effective. Amphotericin B may have been more effective than ketoconazole for the treatment of pneumonia. Also, five of eight Candida tropicalis infections treated with amphotericin B responded, whereas all eight infections treated with ketoconazole failed to respond (P = 0.03). Response rates for localized fungal infections were similar with both drugs. Ketoconazole should not be used as empiric antifungal therapy at institutions where there is a high frequency of infections caused by Aspergillus spp. or C. tropicalis because this agent lacks activity in vitro against these species
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