Fighting Off Cancer Does Cost

Oxaliplatin induced neuropathy treating metastatic colon cancer

(RxWiki News) The major side effect of concern with Eloxatin (oxaliplatin) is the progressive loss of feeling or function in fingers or toes. That is a small price to pay when extending metastatic colon cancer survival from a few months to a few years.

In a recently published review article, a team from the University of Colorado Cancer Center looked at risk factors for this side effect, called progressive neuropathy, and focused on ways to prevent or delay symptoms.

Many pharmacological solutions were evaluated, but without definitive success. Spreading the treatments out over time seems to be the only way to delay the nerve damage.

"Ask your oncologist about 'stop and go' treatment with Eloxatin."

"Before, when patients died in a few months, these symptoms were overlooked. Now they're living two to three years and the symptoms deserve closer attention," said Andrew Weickhardt, M.D., a clinical fellow at the University of Colorado Cancer Center who authored the study.

Two different methods have been used in patients - administering other drugs to prevent the neurological damage, or spacing the treatment with two month breaks.

The latter is referred to as stop-and-go oxaliplatin dosing, giving the drug with breaks in treatment appears to have the most effectiveness with the lowest amount of neurological problems.

Glutathione, carbamazepine, and xaliproden were all tested to see if they would have any protective effect, but researchers were unable to find hard evidence these drugs helped. Calcium and magnesium supplements were also tested with a similar result.

Dr. Weickhardt said, "No matter what we do, after this same six to nine months of total treatment, neurological side effects start to rise."

Although the evidence for them isn't clear, Dr. Weickhardt recommends using calcium and magnesium supplements. "An infusion of calcium and magnesium should be used as well because they've shown some benefit and they don't do any harm," Dr. Weickhardt stated.

The monthly cost of Eloxatin ranged from $2,000 to $14,000 depending on dosage, cancer progression and other drugs used in combination therapy. 

The study was published in the Journal of Oncolo. The final conclusion was that more definitive studies were necessary to establish firm guidelines on how to prevent damage from Eloxatin. No financial relationships were disclosed by researchers.

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