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Taxanes: vesicants, irritants, or just irritating?

Several classes of antineoplastic agents are universally referred to as vesicants with ample supporting literature. However, the literature surrounding the taxanes is controversial. While the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Oncology Nursing Society Chemotherapy Administration Safety Standards and the Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Guidelines and Recommendations for Practice identify the risks of extravasation and the parameters surrounding the infusion of known vesicants, recommend administration sites for known agents, and recommend antidotes for particular extravasation cases, they fail to provide specific recommendations for the administration of individual taxanes, or a classification system for antineoplastic agents as vesicants, irritants, or inert compounds. There is also a lack of prescribing information regarding such recommendations. The lack of a formal classification system further complicates the accurate delineation of vesicant antineoplastic agents and subsequent appropriate intravenous administration and extravasation management. There are several factors that make the classification of taxanes as vesicants or irritants challenging. Comprehensive preclinical data describing potential mechanisms of tissue damage or vesicant-like properties are lacking. Furthermore, most case reports of taxane extravasation fail to include the parameters surrounding administration, such as the concentration of medication and duration of infusion, making it difficult to set parameters for vesicant potential. Subsequently, many practitioners default to central venous administration of taxanes without evidence that such administration minimizes the risk of extravasation or improves outcomes thereof. Here, we review briefly the data surrounding taxane extravasation and potential vesicant or irritant properties, classify the taxanes, and propose a spectrum for antineoplastic agent potential to cause tissue injury that warrants clinical intervention if extravasation occurs.

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