Chemotherapy for malignancy induces a remission in asthma symptoms and airway inflammation but not airway hyperresponsiveness

Peter D. Jones*, Richard L. Henry, Peter G. Gibson, Robyn Hankin, Kellie Carty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Inflammation with infiltrations of eosinophils and mast cells into the walls of airways is considered to increase airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), which in turn characterizes asthma. We present a child with AHR in whom the clinical course of asthma was related to eosinophilic bronchitis. Our patient was admitted at age 6 months with bronchiolitis and at age 4 years with asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids were begun at age 7 years. At age 8 he developed a meningeal sarcoma. While on chemotherapy, his asthma symptoms resolved and he no longer required prophylactic asthma treatment. After 14 months off all chemotherapy, he again had mild episodic asthma. While receiving chemotherapy for malignancy, he had an admission with a coagulase negative staphylococcal bacteremia. During sputum induction with 4.5% saline, he developed cough, wheeze, and a 20% reduction in peak expiratory flow (220 to 180 L/min) that reversed after treatment with salbutamol. The sputum cell count was 1.7 x 106/ml with 1.1 x 106 being neutrophils. Two weeks later and prior to the induction of the second sputum, a 21% increase in FEV1 was recorded after bronchodilator inhalation (82% to 99% of predicted). The second sputum contained 2.7 x 106/ml cells with 1.6 x 106/ml neutrophils. Neither eosinophils nor mast cells were identified in the sputum. A third sputum obtained 14 months after the cessation of chemotherapy showed a sputum cell count of 16 x 106/ml, with 11.6 x 106 neutrophils and 0.4 x 106 eosinophils; no mast cells were detected. A reversible 15% reduction in FEV1 was detected on hypertonic saline challenge testing. This boy had persistent airway hyperreactivity and reversible airways obstruction on three occasions during and following chemotherapy. When he developed asthma symptoms, his sputum contained neutrophils and eosinophils; while on chemotherapy his sputum did not contain eosinophils and he was symptom-free and off all asthma therapy. One can speculate that chemotherapy for malignancy can induce a remission in asthma symptoms but not AHR, and remission in symptoms is associated with a lack of eosinophilic or mast cell infiltrates in the sputum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-77
Number of pages4
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1998
Externally publishedYes


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