AIMS--To investigate and characterise the appearance of non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI) in the serum of patients after cytotoxic chemotherapy and to compare this with the onset and duration of neutropenia. METHOD--Non-transferrin bound iron was measured by a bleomycin assay in patients undergoing intensive chemotherapy for treatment of acute leukaemia or lymphoma. RESULTS--NTBI was detected after 26 of 27 courses of chemotherapy and lasted for a mean of 14.5 days. The presence of NTBI correlated with the serum iron binding saturation, but not with serum ferritin. Neutropenia occurred after all courses of chemotherapy and lasted for a mean of 20.0 days. NTBI and neutropenia occurred concurrently after 23 courses of chemotherapy, and had a mean joint duration of 9.5 days. CONCLUSIONS--NTBI is consistently present in the serum of patients after cytotoxic chemotherapy, often at the same time as the patient is neutropenic. This may be an additional risk factor for the development of infective episodes after chemotherapy.
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