The liver has a key role in the metabolism (ie, inactivation or activation) of many commonly used anticancer agents-cytotoxics or new biological agents. Therefore, assessment of liver function is a fundamental part of initial work-up and management of patients with cancer. An understanding of the meaning of conventional serum biochemical testing of liver function and status, what variables they are measuring, and usefulness for chemotherapy dosing is essential. Emerging awareness of the drawbacks of conventional serum biochemical testing and further understanding of the intricacies of liver function is leading to the development of alternative strategies for appropriate chemotherapy regimens and dosing. We present an overview of assessment of liver function and chemotherapy dosing. We consider the use of serum liver biochemical testing to predict liver function, potential causes of biochemical abnormalities in patients with cancer, and chemotherapy drugs that are associated with hepatotoxicity. Part II will overview the current knowledge surrounding chemotherapy dosing in the setting of liver dysfunction; as well as alternative tests of hepatic metabolic function that are beginning to be used as strategies for appropriate individualised chemotherapy administration.
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