Drug continues to show promise as means to control chemotherapy’s side effects

Author: William G. Gilroy


A team of scientists led by a University of Notre Dame cancer researcher has found further evidence that an antipsychotic drug also may help prevent chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Rudolph M. Navari, director of Notre DamesWaltherCancerResearchCenter, has been leading a team of researchers from theIndianaUniversityand University of Kentucky Medical Schools and the Walther Cancer Institutes Hoosier Oncology Group in a study of a drug called olanzapine for the control of chemotherapys most common side effects. Olanzapine, which carries the brand name Zyprexa, has been used since the mid-1990s to treat schizophrenia and other psychoses.

In a Phase I study, the researchers found that when olanzapine was added to the standard mix of drugs used to relieve nausea and vomiting given to patients prior to receiving chemotherapy, there was essentially no nausea or vomiting in the 24-hour period following treatment. Olanzapine also prevented nausea and vomiting during the week after chemotherapy if it was given daily for two to five days.

Our recently published Phase II study reinforces the findings of the Phase I study and provides further evidence that olanzapine is safe and highly effective in controlling acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting,Navari said.The response to olazapine and control of nausea was equal or greater than in the Phase I study.

Navari points out that one class of drugs used historically to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is corticosteroids.

Corticoteroids can be very effective, but they have many side effects and we worry about using them for as long as five or six days,Navari said.In a recently completedbut unpublished study, we substituted olanzapine for corticosteroids and demonstrated that it was as effective in controlling nausea and vomiting without the side effects. It appears that we can probably replace corticosteroids and effectively use olanzapine for three or four days.

Navari points out that using olanzapine to control chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is anoff-label usefor the antipsychotic drug.However, he notes that many drugs on the market are currently being safely used for off-label purposes.

* Contact: * _Rudolph M. Navari, director,WaltherCancerResearchCenter, 574-631-3793, navari.1@nd.edu _

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