Nausea and vomiting are perhaps the most unpleasant potential side effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer. Last week the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) updated its practice guidelines for the prevention of nausea and vomiting. Today, we'll highlight the latest recommendations.
Links to the new guidelines published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a DoctorsChannel.com video about the update and a Los Angeles Times story on the start of preventative medication may be found on the Aloxi (palonosetron) page of our website.
Adriamycin/Cytoxan and Ellence/Cytoxan combinations have a high risk
The ASCO guidelines classify chemotherapy drugs and combinations according to the likelihood that they may cause nausea and vomiting. Individually, Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Ellence (epirubicin) and lower dose Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) are considered to have a moderate risk of causing nausea and vomiting. Under the new guidelines, the Adriamycin/Cytoxan and Ellence/Cytoxan combinations are considered to have a high risk, meaning they are very likely to cause nausea and vomiting.
Three drug combination for chemotherapy with a high risk
For chemotherapy drugs with a high risk of causing nausea and vomiting, such as the combinations above, Platinol (cisplatin) and high dose Cytoxan, the guidelines recommend a three drug combination:
EMEND (aprepitant) or EMEND for Injection (fosaprepitant) . Because EMEND for Injection is administered for 1 day rather than 3, it may be preferable.Two drug combination for chemotherapy with a moderate risk
Aloxi (palonosetron). If Aloxi is not available, Kytril (granisetron) or Zofran (odansetron) may be substituted.
For chemotherapy with a moderate risk of causing nausea and vomiting, such as Camptosar (irinotecan), Paraplatin (carboplatin) or Adriamycin, Ellence or low dose Cytoxan alone, the ASCO recommends a two drug combination of dexamethasone plus Aloxi. The report notes that there is "moderate evidence" suggesting that EMEND may add benefit.
One drug for chemotherapy with a low risk
For chemotherapy with a low risk of causing nausea and vomiting, such as Taxotere (docetaxel), 5-FU (fluorouracil), Gemzar (Gemcitabine), methotrexate, Torisel (temsirolimus) and Ixempra (ixabepilone), the ASCO recommends a single dose of dexamethasone.
According to an October 3 article in the Los Angeles Times, it's not unusual to start taking medication to prevent nausea before the start of chemo.
A September 26 What to Know guide from ASCO provides a patient-friendly summary of the ASCO guidelines, including a classification of chemotherapy drugs by risk of nausea and vomiting.
At LATESTBreastCancer.com, we'll continue to follow research on the prevention of nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy for breast cancer. Any new developments will be added to the treatment pages of our website and highlighted here. Please stay tuned.