BACKGROUND: The toxic effect of chemotherapy on the gastrointestinal tract may lead to mucositis and is associated with the pathogenesis of other treatment-related complications. We hypothesized that nutrition supplementation with bovine colostrum, rich in bioactive factors, would ameliorate gastrointestinal toxicity and reduce the incidence of fever and infectious complications during induction treatment for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
METHODS: Children with newly diagnosed ALL were included in a 2-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Patients were randomized to receive a daily colostrum or placebo supplement during 4 weeks of induction treatment. Data on fever, bacteremia, need for antibiotics, and mucosal toxicity were prospectively collected. (Trial registration: www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT01766804).
RESULTS: Sixty-two patients were included. No differences were found for the primary outcome (number of days with fever). No difference was observed for neutropenic fever, intravenous antibiotics, or incidence of bacteremia. Peak severity of oral mucositis was significantly reduced by colostrum (7/29 patients, 24% mild; 6/29, 21% moderate; 1/29, 3% severe) compared with placebo (12/31, 39% mild; 1/31, 3% moderate; 7/31, 23% severe) (P = 0.02). Among patients receiving at least 1 dose of supplement (colostrum: n = 22; placebo: n = 30), the peak weekly self-reported oral mucositis score was overall significantly less severe in the colostrum group (P = 0.009).
CONCLUSION: The use of prophylactic bovine colostrum showed no effect on fever, infectious morbidity, or inflammatory responses. Nevertheless, these data may suggest protective effects on the oral mucosa during induction therapy in childhood ALL, encouraging additional studies confirming these findings.