Over the last decades, there has been significant progress in cancer care, with key advances across the core pillars of surgery, radiotherapy and medicines, including new immunotherapies. However, the significant and growing threat of drug-resistant bacteria can undermine all the above-mentioned efforts of cancer treatment. Surgery and treatments like bone marrow transplants, radiotherapy and chemotherapy put the immune system under immense pressure and people with cancer are susceptible to infections.
Antibiotics are a key and indispensable part of cancer treatment. As many as 1 in 5 cancer patients undergoing treatment are hospitalised due to infection, and antibiotics are the main line of defence. Pneumonia and sepsis are among the most frequent causes of admission to intensive care units for cancer patients. In fact, it is estimated that 8.5% of cancer deaths are due to severe sepsis.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), when microorganisms change and are still able to grow when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs meant to kill or limit their growth, is a growing public health issue and needs urgent attention in countries around the world. Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines are among the major factors that have contributed to the development of drug resistant microbes. Examples of misuse include when they are taken by people with viral infections like colds and flu, and when they are given as growth promoters in animals or used to prevent diseases in healthy animals. Patients with infections caused by these drug-resistant bacteria are at an increased risk of poorer clinical outcomes, which could be fatal. AMR also causes a strain on health systems.
There is urgent need to address the critical issue of AMR that could roll back progress made to date in cancer treatment, the time to act is now.
Health care workers are crucial in the war against AMR. A high awareness of AMR and knowledge of actions that can minimise spread of infections as well as avoiding misuse of antibiotic among are necessary. Health care professionals can lead on this topic to increase the sense of urgency towards decision-makers and by inspiring colleagues.
The objective of this session was to highlight the threat AMR poses to improved cancer care outcomes. Discussions focused on the need to increase awareness on AMR as a key issue for global health, especially among health care workers within cancer care. The aim is to clarify the most central calls to action on a global level to stop the silent pandemic of AMR and so ensure effective treatments for today and tomorrow's cancer patients.
This Virtual Dialogue is held in collaboration with the Swedish Cancer Society