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Oncological Emergencies. Dr. Gary Harding MD, FRCPC Medical Oncology Fellow CancerCare Manitoba. CASE 1…. Mr. SV. ID: 65 year old male with PMHx of CAD and emphysema EC: present to clinic with one week history of increasing SOB

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oncological emergencies

Oncological Emergencies

Dr. Gary Harding MD, FRCPC

Medical Oncology Fellow CancerCare Manitoba

mr sv
Mr. SV
  • ID: 65 year old male with PMHx of CAD and emphysema
  • EC: present to clinic with one week history of increasing SOB
  • HPI: 3 month history of weight loss, decreased appetite, a change in his chronic cough, and intermittent hemoptysis
respiratory examination
Respiratory Examination
  • Stridor
  • Dullness to percussion on right lower lung fields
  • Increased tactile fremitus to right lower lung fields
  • Decreased A/E to right lower lung fields
  • Exudate
  • Gram stain
    • Negative
  • AFB stain
    • Negative
  • Cytology
    • non-small cell lung cancer
      • Large cell type
  • Obstruction of blood flow in the superior vena cava results in signs and symptoms of SVC syndrome
  • Caused by either invasion or external compression of the SVC by contiguous pathologic process
  • Right lung pathology, lymph nodes, other mediastinal structures, or thrombosis
  • Before antibiotics the most common causes were from complications of untreated infection
    • Syphilitic thoracic aneurysms
    • fibrosing mediastinitis
  • Malignancy is presently the most common cause
symptoms and signs
Symptoms and Signs
  • As the obstruction develops venous collaterals are formed
  • Symptom onset depends on speed of SVC obstruction onset
  • Malignant disease can arise in weeks to months
    • Not enough time to develop collaterals
  • Fibrosing mediastinitis can take years to have symptoms
symptoms and signs16
Symptoms and Signs
  • Central venous pressures remain high even in collaterals
    • High pressures cause the characteristic clinical picture
  • Shortness of breath is the most common symptom1

1. Parish, JM, Marschke, RF Jr, Dines, DE, Lee, RE. Etiologic considerations in superior vena cava syndrome. Mayo Clin Proc 1981; 56:407.

signs and symptoms
Signs and Symptoms
  • Facial swelling or head fullness
    • exacerbated by bending forward or lying down
  • Cough
  • Arm edema
  • Cyanosis
physical findings
Physical Findings
  • Venous distension
    • neck
    • chest wall
  • Pemberton’s Sign
  • Facial Edema

Patient who presented with progressively enlarging veins over the anterior chest wall. A diagnosis of a right-sided superior sulcus (Pancoast) tumor compressing the SVC was made.

etiology malignancy
Etiology: Malignancy
  • Lung cancer is the most common2
  • Lymphoma is second most common
  • together represent 94% of cases

2. Escalante, CP. Causes and management of superior vena cava syndrome. Oncology (Huntingt) 1993; 7:61.

  • 2-4% of bronchogenic cancer patients develop SVC syndrome3
  • extrinsic compression or direct invasion
    • primary tumor or by enlarging mediastinal nodes

3. Armstrong, BA, Perez, CA, Simpson, JR, Hederman, MA. Role of irradiation in the management of superior vena cava syndrome. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1987; 13:531.

small cell lung cancer
Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Greatest risk
  • 20% will develop SVC obstruction3
  • more common because SCLC tends to occur centrally in contrast to other types
  • 2-4% of patients
  • predominantly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma4
  • Hodgkin’s rarely causes SVC syndrome

4. Perez-Soler, R, McLaughlin, P, Velasquez, WS, et al. Clinical features and results of management of superior vena cava syndrome secondary to lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 1984; 2:260.

  • Extrinsic compression caused by enlarging lymph nodes
  • subtypes of large B cell can be intravascular and cause occlusion (angiotropic)
  • diffuse large cell and lymphoblastic are most commonly associated with SVC syndrome
other cancers
Other cancers
  • Thymoma
  • primary mediastinal germ cell neoplasm
  • solid tumors with mediastinal nodal metastases
    • breast cancer most common type
other causes
Other causes
  • Post radiation local vascular fibrosis can also be considered in oncology patients
    • Thoracic radiation treatment may predate syndrome by many years
other causes28
Other causes
  • Thrombosis
  • Indwelling central venous catheters
  • Subcutaneous tunneled catheters have fewer thrombotic and infectious complications
    • Can also cause pulmonary embolism5

5. Sivaram, CA, Craven, P, Chandrasekaran, K. Transesophageal echocardiography during removal of central venous catheter associated with thrombus in superior vena cava. Am J Card Imaging 1996; 10:266.

  • Timely identification of the cause is essential
  • Radiographic studies are useful
  • Up to 60% of patients with SVC syndrome related to neoplasm do not have a known diagnosis of cancer6
    • Need a tissue biopsy for histologic studies

6. Schraufnagel, DE, Hill, R, Leech, JA, Pare, JA. Superior vena caval obstruction. Is it a medical emergency?. Am J Med 1981; 70:1169.

radiographic studies
Radiographic Studies
  • Most patients have an abnormal chest x-ray at presentation
  • Most common findings are
    • Mediastinal widening
    • Pleural effusion
ct chest
CT Chest
  • Preferred choice
  • IV contrast
    • defines the level of obstruction
    • Maps out collateral pathways
    • Can identify underlying cause of obstruction
  • Bilateral upper arm venograpy
    • superior to CT to define site of obstruction
    • Does not define cause unless thrombosis is solely responsible
helical ct
Helical CT
  • With bilateral upper arm IV contrast injection
  • Best visualization of level of obstruction and cause
  • Can be useful in patients with IV contrast allergies

T1-weighted axial MRI demonstrating the primary tumor and the paratracheal soft tissue mass that invades into the SVC

histologic diagnosis
Histologic Diagnosis
  • Essential
  • Guides treatment
  • Aids in defining prognosis
histologic diagnosis38
Histologic Diagnosis
  • Sputum cytology, pleural fluid cytology, biopsy of enlarged peripheral nodes
  • Bone marrow biopsy for NHL
  • Bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy, or thoracotomy are more invasive but sometimes necessary
  • Aimed at underlying cause
  • Evolution of thought has occurred in recent years
Historically SVC syndrome was considered a potentially life-threatening emergency
  • Standard of care was immediate radiotherapy
    • Zap now
    • Ask questions later
  • The emergent approach is not appropriate for most patients
emergent to urgent
Emergent to Urgent
  • Symptomatic obstruction is usually a prolonged process
  • Most patients are not in immediate danger at presentation
  • Most have time for a full diagnostic work up
emergent to urgent44
Emergent to Urgent
  • Prebiopsy radiation can obscure the diagnosis
  • Current strategies aim at accurate diagnosis of underlying etiology before therapy
exception to new rule
Exceptionto new rule
  • Stridor
    • Central airway obstruction or laryngeal edema
  • True medical emergency
  • Immediate action needed
    • Possible intubation and ICU admission
    • Immediate therapy to target obstruction needed


Linked to tumor histology and stage at presentation

treatment sensitive tumors
Treatment Sensitive Tumors
  • NHLs, germ cells, and limited-stage small cell lung cancers usually respond to chemotherapy and or radiation
  • Can achieve long term remission with tumor specific directed therapy
  • Symptomatic improvement usually takes 1-2 weeks after start of therapy
note corticosteroids
Note: Corticosteroids
  • Controversial issue with regards to treatment benefit at presentation
non small cell lung cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer
  • SVC obstruction is a strong predictor of poor prognosis
  • Median survival around 5 months7
  • Choice of therapy considers likelihood of response to each modality

7. Martins, SJ, Pereira, JR. Clinical factors and prognosis in non-small cell lung cancer. Am J Clin Oncol 1999; 22:453.

non small cell lung cancer50
Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Goal usually directed to palliation rather than long term remission
  • Palliative radiation and chemotherapy can be used
intraluminal stents
Intraluminal Stents
  • Endovascular placement under fluoroscopy
  • Patients who have recurrent disease in previously irradiated fields
  • Tumors refractory chemotherapy
  • Patient too ill to tolerate radiation or chemotherapy
intraluminal stents52
Intraluminal Stents
  • Some data suggests benefit from immediate stent placement in NSCLC at presentation8
  • Tends to provide more rapid relief of symptoms
  • Issue of anticoagulation after is not resolved

8. Rowell, NP, Gleeson, FV. Steroids, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and stents for superior vena caval obstruction in carcinoma of the bronchus: a systematic review. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2002; 14:338.

mr ec
Mr. EC
  • ID: 56 year old man with history of HTN and osteoarthrtis
  • EC: presents to family doctor with one month history of back pain that is not responding to Tylenol
    • Pain beginning to wake him at night
    • More pain with recumbancy
    • Some shooting pains down right leg
  • ROS: negative
on examination
On examination
  • vitals stable, no fever
  • CVS, Respiratory, GI, GU exams reported as normal
  • Back exam
    • Inspection: normal
    • Palpation: some pain in L1
    • ROM: normal
    • Some pain in right leg with straight leg raising
investigation in clinic
Investigation in Clinic
  • Lumbar Spine X-ray
    • Some age related degeneration
  • Sciatica vs. Back strain
  • Treatment:
    • NSAIDS
    • Few days of bed rest
the story continues
The story continues…
  • Mr. EC’s pain does not resolve
  • More trials of various forms of pain control fail
  • One month later Mr. EC awakens in the morning and has difficulty supporting his weight
    • Subjective leg muscle weakness
  • Goes to HSC Emergency room
in er
  • Patient has objective leg weakness on physical exam
  • A very keen medical student does a rectal exam and discovers a large nodular prostate
  • PSA: 45.0
  • MRI Spine…..
malignant epidural spinal cord compression escc
Malignant Epidural Spinal Cord Compression (ESCC)
  • Neoplastic invasion of the space between vertebrae and spinal cord (epidural invasion)
    • Usually from bone metastases
  • Compresses thecal sac of spinal cord
  • Frequent complication of malignancy
  • Can cause pain
  • Can cause irreversible loss of neurologic function
  • Any radiological indentation of the thecal sac
  • Tip of the spinal cord lies at the L1 vertebral level
  • Lumbosacral nerve roots form the cauda equina
  • Many cases of unrecognized ESCC
  • Difficult to define incidence
  • Autopsy review studies suggest around 5% of cancer patients die with ESCC9

9. Barron, KD, Hirano, A, Araki, S, Terry, RD. Experiences with metastatic neoplasms involving the spinal cord. Neurology 1959; 9:91.

  • Metastatic tumor from any primary site
  • Tumors with predilection to metastasize to spinal column
  • Prostate, breast, and lung carcinoma
    • 15-20% of cases
  • Renal cell, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or myeloma
    • 5-10% of cases
Vertebral metastases are more common than ESCC
  • Prostate cancer: 90%
  • Breast Cancer: 74%
  • Lung Cancer: 45%
  • Lymphoma: 29%
  • Renal cell: 29%
  • GI: 25%

10. Posner, JB. Neurologic Complications of Cancer. FA Davis, Philadelphia, 1995

ESCC can be initial presentation of a malignancy
    • Around 20% of cases
    • In many cases diagnosis is made by biopsy of the spinal lesion
spinal location 10
Spinal Location10
  • Thoracic spine: 60%
  • Lumbosacral spine: 30%
  • Cervical spine: 10%
  • Specific tumor predilection is difficult to define
Important to recognize
  • Early recognition leads to better outcomes
  • Efficacy of treatment depends most on patient’s neurological function at presentation
  • Median time from symptoms to diagnosis is around 2 months11
  • More than half of patients who present to hospital are non-ambulatory

11. Husband, DJ. Malignant spinal cord compression: Prospective study of delays in referral and treatment. BMJ 1998; 317:18.

first red flag pain
First Red Flag: Pain
  • Usually first symptom12
    • 80-90% of the time
  • Usually precedes other neurologic symptoms by seven weeks
    • Increases in intensity
  • Severe local back pain
  • Aggravated by recumbency
    • Distension of venous plexus
  • May become radicular

12. Bach, F, Larsen, BH, Rohde, K, et al. Metastatic spinal cord compression. Occurrence, symptoms, clinical presentations and prognosis in 398 patients with spinal cord compression. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 1990; 107:37.

second red flag motor
Second Red Flag: Motor
  • Weakness: 60-85%13
  • At or above conus medularis
    • Extensors of the upper extremities
  • Above the thoracic spine
    • Weakness from corticospinal dysfunction
    • Affects flexors in the lower extremities
  • Patients may be hyperreflexic below the lesion and have extensor plantars

13. Greenberg, HS, Kim, JH, Posner, JB. Epidural spinal cord compression from metastatic tumor: Results with a new treatment protocol. Ann Neurol 1980; 8:361.

Weakness tends to be symmetrical
  • Progressive weakness is followed by lost of gait function then paralysis
  • The severity of weakness is greatest with thoracic metastases
third red flag sensory
Third Red Flag: Sensory
  • Less common than motor findings
  • Still present in majority of cases
  • Ascending numbness and parathesias
fourth red flag bladder and bowel function
Fourth Red Flag: Bladder and Bowel Function
  • Loss is late finding
  • Autonomic neuropathy presents usually as urinary retension
    • Rarely sole finding
Diagnosis depends on ability to demonstrate a mass compressing the thecal sac
  • Plain radiographs are not enough
  • Historically this involved invasive procedures
  • Advent of MRI has allowed non-invasive diagnosis
  • Clinical examination is not reliable in determining level of lesion
Entire imaging of spine is ideal
    • Focused CT imaging can miss clinically unapparent lesions
  • Myelography and MRI are better than plain X-Rays, bone scans and CT for diagnosis
plain spine radiographs
Plain Spine Radiographs
  • Easiest and cheapest
  • Need large bony destruction or vertebral collapse to be diagnostic
  • High false negative rate
  • Not recommended to confirm diagnosis
Both image thecal sac and display indentation and encircling
  • CT myelography involves a lumbar puncture
    • Contraindicated in brain metastases, thrombocytopenia, or coagulopathy
    • Can diagnose leptomeningeal metastases
    • Available in Winnipeg in middle of the night
  • Images whole spine
  • High detail
  • Spares lumbar puncture
  • Patients in pain must lie still
Roughly equivalent in terms of sensitivity and specificity
  • Presently no large comparative studies b/c MRI in the US has become so readily available
  • MRI standard of care in centers that have access
bone scan
Bone Scan
  • More sensitive than plain radiograph
  • Visualizes entire skeleton
  • Can miss neoplasms that do not have increased blood flow
ct scan alone
CT Scan alone
  • Does not visualize spinal cord and epidural space clearly
intramedullary metastases
Intramedullary Metastases
  • Less common
  • Often present with hemicord symptoms
    • Unilateral weakness below lesion
    • Contralateral diminution of pain and temperature sensation
    • Can progress to bilateral dysfunction
radiation myelopathy
Radiation Myelopathy
  • Can mimic ESCC
  • MR imaging can make distinction
treatment delays
Treatment delays…….
  • 2 month median delay in treatment from onset of back pain11
  • 14 day delay in treatment from onset of neurological symptoms11
why the delay
Why the delay?
  • Patient factors
  • General practitioner factors
  • Hospital factors
treatment objectives
Treatment Objectives
  • Pain control
  • Avoidance of complications
  • Preserve or improve neurological function
pain management
Pain management
  • Corticosteroids
    • Decrease edema
  • Opiates
    • Needed to decrease pain for comfort and examination purposes
bed rest
Bed Rest
  • No
  • No
  • No
  • No
  • Cancer is a hypercoaguable state
  • High burden of tumor in metastatic disease
  • Possible value in prophylaxis against venous thromboembolism
  • If patient not mobile subcutaneous heparin or compression devices is indicated
prevention of constipation
Prevention of Constipation
  • Factors
    • Autonomic dysfunction
    • Limited mobility
    • Opiate analgesic
  • Risk of perforation
    • Masked by corticosteroids
  • Bowel regimen needed
Part of standard regimen
  • Limited data on benefit vs. side effects
  • Many studies suggesting lower doses can be effective
    • No randomized trials
corticosteroid recommendations
Corticosteroid Recommendations
  • High dose dexamethasone and half dose every three days
  • Pain with minimal neurological dysfunction can have lower dose
  • Small asymptomatic lesions can forgo steroids
Definitive choice
  • Portal 8 cm wide
  • Centered on spine
  • Extends one to two vertebral bodies above and below the epidural metastasis
Relieves pain in most cases
  • Post-neurological function usually determines response
  • Response most associated with tumor type and radiosensitivity; eg. lymphoma
  • Dosing 20 to 40 Gy in 5 to 20 fractions
  • Popular
    • 30 Gy in 10 fractions
  • Changing role
  • Historically posterior vertebral decompression was done
    • No survival benefit with or without radiation15

15. Findlay, GF. Adverse effects of the management of malignant spinal cord compression. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1984; 47:761.

Better techniques today allow aggressive approach
  • Gross spinal tumor resection with vertebral reconstruction now possible
  • Experienced surgeon required
Recent controlled trial comparing aggressive surgery followed by radiation vs. radiation alone16
  • Improvement in surgery+rads
    • Days remained ambulatory (126 vs. 35)
    • Percent that regained ambulation after therapy (56% vs. 19%)
    • Days remained continent (142 vs. 12)
    • Less steroid dose, less narcotics
    • Trend to increase survival

16. Patchell, R, Tibbs, PA, Regine, WF, et al. A randomized trial of direct decompressive surgical resection in the treatment of spinal cord compression caused by metastasis (abstract). proc Am Soc Clin Oncol 2003; 22:1.

  • Can be successful in chemosensitive tumors
    • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
    • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
    • Neuroblastoma
    • Germ cell
    • Breast cancer (hormonal manipulation)
    • Prostate cancer (hormonal manipulation)
  • Recommended
  • Decrease pathologic fractures in bony disease
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Breast cancer
  • Median survival with ESCC is 6 months14
  • Ambulatory patients with radiosensitive tumors have the best prognosis

14. Sorensen, PS, Borgesen, SE, Rohde, K, et al. Metastatic epidural spinal cord compression. Results of treatment and survival. Cancer 1990; 65:1502.

treatment delay
Treatment Delay
  • Education
  • Education
case 3 mrs hc
Case 3: Mrs. HC
  • ID: 75 year old female living alone with no significant past medical history
  • EC: brought to ER by paramedics after neighbor called b/c she was found in her apartment unresponsive
  • No collateral history
  • Fluctuating level of consciousness
  • Vitals normal, no fever
  • Dehydrated
  • Coarse upper airway sounds
  • No other pertinent findings
  • CBC normal
  • Mildly elevated BUN and Cr
  • Normal LFTs
  • Standard electrolytes normal
Concern of pneumonia
  • Chest x-ray ordered……
  • Usually nonspecific
  • Many times patients present with very high calcium level
  • Most research done in hyperparathyroidism
  • Constipation is most common15
    • Exacerbated or confused with narcotic effects
    • Related to autonomic dysfunction
  • Anorexia
  • Vague abdominal pain
  • Rarely can lead to pancreatitis

15. Heath, H 3d. Clinical spectrum of primary hyperparathyroidism: Evolution with changes in medical practice and technology. J Bone Miner Res 1991; 6(Suppl 2):S63.

renal dysfunction
Renal Dysfunction
  • Nephrolithiasis
    • More common in hyperparathyroidism
  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus
    • Defect in concentrating ability
    • Polyuria and polydipsia
  • Chronic renal failure
    • Longstanding high calcium
      • Calcifcation, degeneration, and necrosis of tubules
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cognitive dysfunction
    • Delerium
    • Psychosis
    • Hallucinations
    • Somnolence
    • Coma
  • Short QT interval
  • Supraventricualr arrhythmias
  • Ventricular arrhythmias
physical findings125
Physical Findings
  • Usually not specific
  • Dehydration secondary to diuresis caused by the hypercalcemia
  • Corneal deposition of calcium
    • “band keratopathy” on slit lamp exam
  • Occurs in about 10 to 20% of patients with cancer
  • Both solid tumors and leukemias
  • Most common
    • Breast
    • Lung
    • Multiple myeloma
three mechanisms
Three mechanisms
  • Osteolytic metastases with local cytokine release
  • Tumor secretion of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP)
  • Tumor production of calcitriol
Breast cancer
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Cytokines released
    • Tumor necrosis factor
    • Interleukin-1
    • Stimulate osteoclast precursor differentiation into mature osteoclasts
      • Leading to more bone breakdown and release of calcium
pth related protein
PTH-Related Protein
  • Most common in patients with non-metastatic tumors
  • Called humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy
  • Secretion of PTH itself is a rare event
  • PTHrP binds to same receptor as PTH and stimulates adeynylate cyclase activity
    • Increased bone resorption
    • Increases kidney calcium reabsorption and phosphate excretion
  • Hodgkin’s disease (mechanism in majority)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s (mechanism in 1/3)
  • Usually responds to glucocorticoid therapy
Clinical symptomology with
    • History of cancer
    • Risk factors for cancer
    • Suppressed PTH
  • Some centers can test for PTHrP to confirm Dx of humoral hypercalcemia
  • High PTHrP may predict response to pamidronate16
    • Less of a response

16. Gurney, H, Grill, V, Martin, TJ. Parathyroid hormonerelated protein and response to pamidronate in tumourinduced hypercalcemia. Lancet 1993; 341:1611.

Malignancy must be ruled out in patients that present with a very high calcium and no other obvious cause
  • Lower serum calcium concentration
  • Treat complications if present
  • Treat underlying disease
  • Large volume of normal Saline administration
  • Expands intravascular volume
  • Increases calcium excretion
    • Inhibition of proximal tubule and loop reabosrption
    • Reduces passive reabsorption of calicum
  • Follow fluid status b/c of danger of fluid overload
inhibition of bone resorption
Inhibition of Bone Resorption
  • Three therapies
    • Calcitonin
    • Bisphosphonates
    • Gallium nitrate
  • Historical therapy
    • Antitumor antibiotic plicamycin (mithramycin)
      • Multiple serious side effects
      • No longer manufactured
  • Salmon calcitonin
  • Increases renal excretion of calcium
  • Decreases bone reabsorption by interfering with osteoclast maturation
  • Weak agent
  • Works the fastest
  • Adsorb to the surface of bone hyroxyapatite
  • Interfere with osteoclast activity
  • Cytotoxic to osteoclasts
  • Inhibit calcium release from bone
  • Three commonly used
    • Pamidronate
    • Zoledronic acid
    • Etidronate (1st generation, weaker)
  • More potent than calcitonin
  • Maxium effect occurs in 2 to 4 days
  • Trend to use of IV zoledronic acid in the acute situation
  • Both are can be renal toxic
    • More potent than pamidronate
    • Administered over a shorter period of time (15 minutes vs. 2 hours)
prophylactic bisphosphonates
Prophylactic Bisphosphonates
  • Pamidronate use in patients with known lytic lesions17
    • Less episodes of hypercalcemia
    • Less pathologic fractures
    • Less pain
    • Less spinal cord compression
    • Less need for radiation or surgery

17. Hortobagyi, GN, Theriault, RL, Porter, L, et al for the Protocol 19 Aredia Breast Cancer Study Group. Efficacy of pamidronate in reducing skeletal complications in patients with breast cancer and lytic bone metastases. N Engl J Med 1996; 335:1785.

newly discovered side effect
Newly discovered side effect…
  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw
  • Recent case reports of jaw bone necrosis in patients on pamidronate
  • EDUCATION needed
gallium nitrate
Gallium Nitrate
  • Effective
  • More potential for nephrotoxicity
  • Rarely used
  • Last resort
  • Dialysis fluid with little or no calcium is effective
  • Useful when patients can’t tolerate large volume resuscitation
  • If calcium needs to be correct emergently
recommendations in symptomatic situation
Recommendations in symptomatic situation
  • Volume expansion
  • Salmon calcitonin
  • IV zoledronic acid or pamidronate
  • Close follow up of calcium level and symptoms
  • Two roles
  • Direct treatment of cancer
  • Palliation of symptoms
palliative chemotherapy
Palliative Chemotherapy
  • Goal is not cure
  • Goals
    • Control of tumor
    • Preservation of function
    • Help tumor symptoms
      • Pain
      • Dsypnea
      • Pruritis
      • Poor appetite
      • Weight loss
fine balance
Fine Balance
  • Chemotherapy can be very toxic
  • Ratio: benefit vs. toxicity
  • Host factors and tumor factors
  • Delicate balance in palliative situation
  • Want medications that affect tumor but do not heavily affect host
psychology of cancer
Psychology of Cancer
  • Psychological evolution during cancer treatment
  • Many people have fought very hard with their disease
  • Chemotherapy for “relief” not “cure” can be difficult concept for patients
  • ART of medicine
  • Chemotherapeutic protocols that have less side effects
  • molecular targeted therapies
    • Attack tumor specifically
    • Less effect on host
Breast cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lung cancer
breast cancer
Breast Cancer
  • Aromatase inhibitors for ER positive tumors
    • Anastrozole, Letrozole, Exemestane
  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin)
    • Humanized monoclonal antibody targeting Her-2/neu protein on breast cancer cells
    • Inhibits growth factor signal transduction
    • Tolerated quite well
colon cancer
Colon Cancer
  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)
  • Oral drug that is transformed into 5-FU with three enzymatic reactions
    • Final enzyme is at higher levels in tumor cells
    • Contributes to drug’s less toxic side effect profile
      • Less stomatitis, less myelosupression
targeted gi therapies
Targeted GI Therapies
  • Bevacizumab
    • Monoclonal antibody to vascular endotheial growth factor receptor
    • Some cardiac toxicity
  • Cetuximab
    • Monoclonal antibody to human epidermal growth factor receptor
    • Skin toxicity
prostate cancer
Prostate Cancer
  • LHRH analogues
  • Leuprolide (Lupron)
  • Goserelin (Zoladex)
  • Stop testosterone production with limited side effects
lung cancer
Lung Cancer
  • In stage IV disease patients who receive Cisplatin based doublet chemotherapy live longer and feel better than best supportive care
  • Hard to balance side effects
gefitinib iressa
Gefitinib (Iressa)
  • Targets epidermal growth factor receptor (tyrosine kinase small molecule inhibitor)
  • May have a role in the palliation of advanced non small cell lung cancer patients
palliative care debate
Palliative Care Debate
  • Do not accept any patient on “active” therapy
  • This needs to be further elucidated
  • Patients being palliated with chemotherapy or targeted therapies still have other palliative care issues and needs
  • Should a patient still on Xeloda for breast or colon cancer not be admitted to St. Boniface 8A?