Hypersensitivity to antineoplastic agents

M C Castells
Current Pharmaceutical Design 2008, 14 (27): 2892-901
The need to offer first line therapy for primary and recurrent cancers has spurred the clinical development of rapid desensitizations for chemotherapy and monoclonal antibodies. Rapid desensitizations allow patients to be treated with medications to which they have presented with hypersensitivity reactions (HSRs), including anaphylaxis. Rapid desensitization achieves temporary tolerization to full therapeutic doses by slow administration of incremental doses of the drug inducing the HSR. Protocols are available for most chemotherapy agents, including taxanes, platins, doxorubicin, monoclonal antibodies, and others. Candidate patients include those who present with type I HSRs, mast cell/IgE dependent, including anaphylaxis, and non-IgE mediated HSRs, during the chemotherapy infusion or shortly after. Idiosyncratic reactions, erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis are not amenable to rapid desensitization. The recommendation for rapid desensitization can only be made by allergy and immunology specialists and can only be performed in settings with one-to-one nurse-patient care and where resuscitation personnel and resources are readily available. Repeated desensitizations can be safely performed in outpatient settings with similar conditions, which allow cancer patients to remain in clinical studies. We have generated a universal 12-step protocol that was applied to 413 cases of intravenous and intraperitoneal rapid desensitizations using taxanes, platins, liposomal doxorubicin, doxorubicin, rituximab, and other chemotherapy drugs. Under this protocol all patients were able to complete their target dose, and 94% of the patients had limited or no reactions. No deaths or codes were reported, indicating that the procedure was safe and effective in delivering first line chemotherapy drugs.


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