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INTRODUCTION — Few side effects of cancer treatment are more feared by the patient than nausea and vomiting. Although nausea and emesis (vomiting and/or retching) can result from surgery or radiation therapy, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) is potentially the most severe and most distressing. Significant progress has been made, but CINV remains an important adverse effect of treatment.
Three distinct types of CINV have been defined, with important implications for both prevention and management:
●Acute emesis, which most commonly begins within one to two hours of chemotherapy and usually peaks in four to six hours
●Delayed emesis, occurring more than 24 hours after chemotherapy
●Anticipatory emesis, occurring prior to treatment as a conditioned response in patients who have developed significant nausea and vomiting during previous cycles of chemotherapy
The objective of antiemetic therapy is the complete prevention of CINV, and this should be achievable in the majority of patients receiving chemotherapy, even with highly emetic agents.
Prevention and treatment of CINV in adult patients receiving cancer chemotherapy will be reviewed here. The pathophysiology of CINV is discussed separately, as are the characteristics of antiemetic drugs, and nausea and vomiting associated with radiation therapy and opioid analgesics. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting" and "Characteristics of antiemetic drugs" and "Radiotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: Prophylaxis and treatment" and "Cancer pain management with opioids: Prevention and management of side effects", section on 'Nausea and vomiting'.)
OVERVIEW OF THE APPROACH TO PROPHYLAXIS
Estimating the risk of nausea and vomiting — The most important factor determining the likelihood of acute or delayed emesis developing during chemotherapy is the intrinsic emetogenicity of the particular agent. Although other factors may be important, such as patient age, sex, and history of alcohol consumption, these factors are not currently used to select the antiemetic strategy. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Chemotherapy agent' and "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Prediction models'.)
The management of CINV has been greatly facilitated by the development of classification schemes that reflect the likelihood of emesis developing following treatment with particular agents. A 1997 classification scheme gained broad acceptance and was utilized as the basis for treatment recommendations by guideline panels . A modification of this schema was proposed at the 2004 Perugia Antiemetic Consensus Guideline meeting  and is still relevant, although many more chemotherapy agents are now available. Chemotherapy agents were divided into four categories based upon the risk of emesis in the absence of antiemetic prophylaxis:
●Highly emetic – >90 percent risk of emesis
●Moderately emetic – >30 to 90 percent risk of emesis
●Low emetogenicity – 10 to 30 percent risk of emesis
●Minimally emetic – <10 percent risk of emesis
This drug classification schema is utilized in both the updated antiemetic guidelines of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC)/European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) [3-5]. A classification of specific agents according to their emetogenic potential is provided separately for parenteral and oral agents (table 1 and table 2).
For combination regimens, the emetic level is determined by identifying the most emetic agent in the combination and then assessing the relative contribution of the other agents. As an example, cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin are both moderately emetogenic agents, but when given together, the regimen is highly emetic . In updated antiemetic guidelines from ASCO, MASCC/ESMO, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), combined anthracycline and cyclophosphamide (AC) regimens have been reclassified as highly emetic [3,5]. It should be noted that the studies defining the AC regimens as highly emetogenic were conducted almost exclusively in women with breast cancer. It is unclear whether AC used as a component of combination regimens in other diseases with more diverse populations (eg, doxorubicin plus cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and prednisone [CHOP] in non-Hodgkin lymphoma) is also highly emetic. For example, an open-label, single-arm trial in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (75 percent receiving CHOP + rituximab) evaluated a single dose of palonosetron (0.25 mg intravenously) prior to chemotherapy, achieving an overall complete response rate of 86 percent . Many clinicians consider CHOP and related regimens to be moderately rather than highly emetogenic. (See 'Palonosetron' below.)
Choosing the prophylactic strategy — The three categories of drugs with the highest therapeutic index for the management of CINV are the type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonists, the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) antagonists, and glucocorticoids (especially dexamethasone) (table 3). In addition, more recent data have demonstrated substantial antiemetic activity for the antipsychotic medication olanzapine when used in combination with other antiemetics. (See '5-HT3 receptor antagonists' below and 'Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists' below and 'Glucocorticoids' below and 'Olanzapine' below.)
These agents are used alone and in specific combinations, depending on the emetogenicity of the specific chemotherapy regimen being administered and its tendency to produce not only acute but also delayed emesis. In general, most of the regimens that are associated with delayed emesis are those that are highly emetogenic, although there are some moderately emetogenic agents that also fit into this category.
An important point is that virtually all of the clinical trials evaluating CINV have focused on intravenously delivered chemotherapy. Therefore, evidenced-based guidelines for antiemetic prophylaxis with oral chemotherapy agents are not currently possible. The following recommendations, unless indicated otherwise, pertain to intravenously administered chemotherapy agents. Management of antiemetics for patients receiving oral chemotherapy is discussed below. (See 'Oral chemotherapy' below.)
Recommendations for specific groups — Guidelines for antiemetic therapy for intravenously administered chemotherapy according to the estimated risk of CINV are available from ASCO and NCCN and in a year 2016 update of recommendations from MASCC/ESMO [3-5]. Our approach to prophylaxis, which largely parallels recommendations from MASCC/ESMO and ASCO, is summarized in the following sections and outlined in the accompanying table (table 4) [3,4]:
Highly emetogenic chemotherapy
Cisplatin and other highly emetogenic single agents
●Day 1 – We recommend antiemetic therapy with a combination of an NK1R antagonist, a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, dexamethasone, and olanzapine. (See '5-HT3 receptor antagonists' below and 'Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists' below and 'Combination with a 5-HT3 antagonist' below and 'Olanzapine' below.)
Anthracycline combined with cyclophosphamide
●Days 2 to 4 – We recommend continuing olanzapine on days 2 to 4. We suggest not using dexamethasone on days 2 to 4 because of the limited data supporting dexamethasone beyond day 1 when an NK1R antagonist is used with AC. (See 'NK1R antagonist plus dexamethasone and 5-HT3 antagonist' below.)
If aprepitant is used on day 1, we recommend continuing aprepitant on days 2 and 3. All other NK1R antagonists are administered on day 1 only.
Other diseases — For non-breast cancer populations (eg, non-Hodgkin lymphoma) receiving combination AC with treatment regimens incorporating corticosteroids, the use of the 5-HT3 antagonist palonosetron without the use of an NK1R antagonist or olanzapine is an acceptable option. (See 'Palonosetron' below.)
Moderately emetogenic chemotherapy
●Day 1 – We recommend the combination of an NK1R antagonist, a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, and dexamethasone on day 1.
●No additional prophylaxis beyond day 1 for delayed emesis is recommended. (See 'Moderate-risk regimens' below.)
●Day 1 – We recommend the combination of palonosetron plus dexamethasone on day 1. If palonosetron is not available, clinicians may substitute a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, such as granisetron or ondansetron. (See 'Palonosetron' below.)
●Days 2 to 3 – To prevent delayed emesis if the regimen contains agents with known potential to induce delayed emesis (eg, oxaliplatin), we suggest single-agent treatment with dexamethasone on days 2 and 3. If a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist is used rather than palonosetron on day 1, then treatment with a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist alone on days 2 and 3 is a reasonable alternative. (See 'Moderate-risk regimens' below.)
Low emetogenic chemotherapy
●For patients receiving low emetic risk agents, we suggest treatment with dexamethasone (4 to 8 mg) as a single agent. An alternative approach for patients in whom glucocorticoid use is contraindicated or undesirable (such as with the use of long-term weekly chemotherapy) is a single dose of a drug such as prochlorperazine . This patient population generally does not require prophylaxis against delayed emesis. (See 'Glucocorticoids' below.)
Minimally emetogenic chemotherapy
●For most patients receiving chemotherapy agents with a minimal risk of causing emesis, we suggest that antiemetic therapy not be routinely administered to prevent either acute or delayed CINV. Prophylactic antiemetics (dexamethasone 4 to 8 mg, prochlorperazine, or metoclopramide) may be administered to patients who have had emesis with prior low-risk regimens, or on an "as needed" basis. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Chemotherapy agent'.)
●The primary approach to the prevention of anticipatory emesis is the prevention of CINV beginning with the initial cycles of chemotherapy. For patients who do develop anticipatory emesis, we suggest behavioral therapy and/or benzodiazepines. (See 'Anticipatory emesis' below.)
●For patients receiving multiday (three or more) regimens that are moderately or highly emetogenic, we suggest the use of a daily dose of a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, or a single application of a granisetron transdermal patch or palonosetron on days 1, 3, and 5 plus daily dexamethasone, with the addition of aprepitant (days 1, 2, and 3), fosaprepitant (day 1), or another NK1R antagonist (eg, netupitant plus palonosetron [NEPA] or rolapitant) on day 1 for highly emetogenic regimens (eg, five days of cisplatin in regimens for testicular or ovarian germ cell cancer). (See 'Consecutive-day intravenous therapy with highly emetogenic agents' below.)
Poor emesis control/rescue therapy
●For patients who do not achieve adequate control of CINV with their initial antiemetic regimen, the patient's management should be reviewed to ensure that there are no other factors responsible for continued emesis and that adequate antiemetic therapy actually was administered for the given chemotherapy regimen. (See 'Poor control of emesis' below.)
Olanzapine 5 or 10 mg daily for three days can be considered as rescue therapy for patients with breakthrough nausea and vomiting who did not receive olanzapine initially. For patients already receiving olanzapine, we suggest trying an agent from a different class than was used for initial prophylaxis (eg, prochlorperazine).
●The modest antiemetic activity of cannabinoids combined with their unfavorable side effect profile, especially in older patients, limits the clinical utility of this class of agents for treatment of refractory CINV. Nevertheless, guidelines from NCCN and ASCO  state that cannabinoids can be considered for refractory nausea and vomiting, and as a rescue antiemetic. Because of medical and legal concerns, the use of medical marijuana is not recommended for management of CINV and is not included in the most recent guidelines for CINV from NCCN, ASCO, or MASCC/ESMO [3,5,8]. (See 'Cannabinoids and medical marijuana' below.)
ANTIEMETIC EFFICACY OF INDIVIDUAL AGENTS — Extensive clinical trials have evaluated the type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonists, the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) antagonists, glucocorticoids, and more recently, olanzapine in patients with acute and delayed CINV. These trials have focused primarily on patients receiving either highly or moderately emetic, intravenously administered chemotherapy regimens. Although not all antiemetic regimens have been evaluated with all chemotherapy combinations, it is reasonable to extrapolate data to other chemotherapy regimens of comparable emetogenicity.
5-HT3 receptor antagonists — A key advance in the prevention of CINV was the development of selective type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonists, a drug class that has a high therapeutic index for prevention of CINV .
Randomized trials have shown that single-agent 5-HT3 receptor antagonists are more effective than less-specific agents such as high-dose metoclopramide and as effective as the combination of high-dose metoclopramide and dexamethasone. When 5-HT3 antagonists are used in combination with dexamethasone, they are more effective than high-dose metoclopramide plus dexamethasone [10-13]. In addition to increased efficacy, these agents are easier to administer and are associated with significantly less serious side effects than the less-specific serotonin inhibitor metoclopramide.
Six first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists (azasetron , dolasetron, granisetron, ondansetron, ramosetron, and tropisetron) and one second-generation agent (palonosetron) are approved for use with varying regional availability; azasetron, ramosetron, and tropisetron are not available in the United States (table 3). An orally disintegrating formulation of ondansetron also is available, which disperses rapidly when placed on the tongue and does not need to be swallowed with water . This formulation may be particularly useful for patients with dysphagia or anorexia. A granisetron transdermal system is also available, as is an extended-release subcutaneous formulation of granisetron (Sustol), which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2016 for the prevention of acute and delayed nausea and vomiting associated with initial and repeat courses of moderately emetogenic chemotherapy, or combination anthracycline and cyclophosphamide chemotherapy regimens. (See 'Granisetron transdermal patch' below.)
First-generation agents — A large number of randomized trials have clarified the properties of the first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists. Key findings include the following:
●The first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists all appear equally effective at preventing CINV at the recommended doses. A meta-analysis has shown no clear advantage for either ondansetron or granisetron in the prophylaxis of acute or delayed emesis .
●There is a plateau in therapeutic efficacy at a definable dose level for each drug, and further dose escalation does not improve outcome .
●A single dose of a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist prior to chemotherapy is therapeutically equivalent to a multiple-dose schedule [18-22].
●The efficacy of 5-HT3 receptor antagonists is significantly improved when they are combined with glucocorticoids. (See 'Glucocorticoids' below.)
●Oral formulations of these agents are as effective as intravenous [IV] formulations [17,23,24].
ECG interval changes and cardiac arrhythmias — Electrocardiogram (ECG) interval changes are a class effect of the first-generation 5-HT3 antagonists, including ondansetron, granisetron, and dolasetron, although they have not been reported with transdermal granisetron or extended-release subcutaneous granisetron [25,26]. (See 'Granisetron transdermal patch' below.).
ECG interval changes appear to be most prominent one to two hours after a dose of these agents, are mostly small and clinically insignificant, and return to baseline within 24 hours [27-29]. However, potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias, including torsade de pointes (TdP), have been reported in association with QTc prolongation [27,29-31]. The following sections describe the warnings/precautions regarding cardiotoxicity of these agents from the FDA.
Dolasetron — Due to the risk of QTc prolongation from increased drug exposure, the injection form of dolasetron is contraindicated for prophylaxis of CINV in both children and adults . The risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm with oral dolasetron is less than that seen with the injection form. However, there is still a potential risk.
●Potassium and magnesium levels should be assessed and, if abnormal, corrected before initiation of treatment with dolasetron. These electrolytes should be monitored after administration, as clinically indicated.
●Use electrocardiographic monitoring in patients with heart failure, a slow heart rate, or underlying cardiac disease, in older adults, and in patients with renal impairment.
Because of these risks, dolasetron (both oral and IV) has been removed from the market in Canada, but it remains available elsewhere.
Ondansetron — The FDA has issued a warning about QTc prolongation and potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias in patients treated with ondansetron . QT prolongation occurs in a dose-dependent manner and, specifically, at a single IV dose of 32 mg. QT interval prolongation is expected to be greater with a faster rate of infusion and larger doses for IV administration.
Revised labeling in the United States includes a recommendation to limit single IV doses to no more than 16 mg, avoid use of ondansetron in patients with congenital long QT syndrome, and to use ECG monitoring in certain patients, including those with hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia, heart failure, and bradyarrhythmias, and in patients taking other medications that increase the risk of QTc prolongation (table 5).
●In patients ≥75 years of age, the initial IV dose should not exceed 8 mg.
●For patients age <75, the initial IV dose should not exceed 16 mg.
●Subsequent IV doses must not exceed 8 mg and may be given four and eight hours after the initial dose.
●All IV doses must be diluted in 50 to 100 mL of saline or other compatible fluid.
●All IV doses must be infused over no less than 15 minutes.
Palonosetron — The second-generation agent palonosetron has a 30- to 100-fold higher affinity for the 5-HT3 receptor and a significantly longer half-life (40 hours) compared with first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists (table 3). In contrast to first-generation 5-HT3 antagonists, QTc prolongation has not been described with palonosetron [35,36].
As a single agent, palonosetron is more effective than ondansetron or dolasetron at preventing emesis due to chemotherapy agents of varying emetogenicity [37-39]. This was illustrated by a multicenter trial in 592 patients, the majority of whom received doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide for breast cancer; a minority received cisplatin- and carboplatin-based chemotherapy regimens . Subjects were randomly assigned to a single IV dose of palonosetron at one of two dose levels (0.25 or 0.75 mg IV) or dolasetron (100 mg). More patients treated with palonosetron (0.25 mg) had complete control of both acute (63 versus 53 percent) and delayed emesis (54 versus 39 percent) compared with dolasetron. The dose of 0.75 mg was not significantly superior compared with 0.25 mg. A similarly designed trial also demonstrated superiority for palonosetron compared with ondansetron .
When used in combination with glucocorticoids, palonosetron provides superior control of delayed emesis compared with first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists combined with glucocorticoids [40-42]. As examples:
●In a phase III, double-blind, double-dummy trial, 1143 patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy (cisplatin or an anthracycline/cyclophosphamide combination for breast cancer) were randomly assigned to dexamethasone plus either palonosetron or granisetron on day 1 prior to chemotherapy; all patients received dexamethasone on days 2 and 3 . During the acute phase, the rate of complete control of CINV was similar (75 versus 73 percent with palonosetron and granisetron, respectively), but during the delayed phase (24 to 120 hours), complete responses occurred in significantly more patients receiving palonosetron (57 versus 45 percent).
●In a second phase III trial in which 667 patients receiving cisplatin-based chemotherapy were randomly assigned to palonosetron (0.25 mg), palonosetron (0.75 mg), or ondansetron (32 mg) no significant differences in antiemetic control were noted between palonosetron and ondansetron . Approximately two-thirds of patients received concomitant dexamethasone. In this subset of patients, complete response rates were numerically higher in both palonosetron arms compared with ondansetron during the first 24 hours. During the delayed (24 to 120 hours) phase, complete response was significantly higher in the 0.25 mg palonosetron arm compared with the ondansetron arm (42 versus 29 percent, p = 0.021).
Two questions arising from the design of these studies are whether the efficacy differences noted would have persisted with protracted dosing (days 2 and 3) of the first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, which have a much shorter half-life than palonosetron, or with the addition of an NK1R antagonist, which all evidence-based guidelines recommend in this setting. At least one phase III study has failed to demonstrate the superiority of palonosetron over granisetron in patients also receiving an NK1R antagonist for the primary endpoint of complete response for the 0 to 120 hour period following cisplatin-based chemotherapy; however, the palonosetron arm was superior for multiple secondary endpoints .
Updated antiemetic guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend palonosetron as the preferred 5-HT3 antagonist for patients who receive moderately emetogenic chemotherapy [3,4]. In contrast, updated guidelines from the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC)/European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) do not specify a preferred 5-HT3 antagonist for patients receiving moderately emetogenic chemotherapy.
A noninferiority trial documented similarity between the oral and IV formulations and validated the correct palonosetron dose (0.5 mg oral) (table 3). The oral formulation of palonosetron, which was approved by the FDA in 2008, is not marketed in the United States but is available in a number of European countries.
Adverse effects — 5-HT3 receptor antagonists are generally safe, with a favorable side effect profile (predominantly low-grade headache, malaise, and constipation).
A few reports have appeared suggesting a potential link between 5-HT3 receptor antagonists and the serotonin syndrome , which is caused when serotonin accumulates to high levels in vivo. Symptoms include confusion, agitation, restlessness, muscle twitching or stiffness, fever, sweating, fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as nausea and/or vomiting, loss of consciousness, and coma; the syndrome can be fatal if not treated. (See "Serotonin syndrome (serotonin toxicity)".)
However, in nearly all cases, the use of concomitant medications with a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist has limited the ability to establish a definitive association. Nevertheless, caution is advised when using 5-HT3 receptor antagonists in combination with other drugs that affect serotonin levels (table 6).
Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists — The introduction of the NK1R antagonists aprepitant and fosaprepitant (a parenteral water-soluble prodrug of aprepitant that is effective as a one-day treatment (see 'One- versus three-day administration' below)) has significantly improved the ability to prevent both acute and delayed CINV in patients receiving highly emetic, intravenously administered chemotherapy (table 1). Randomized trials also support a role for NK1R antagonists with the moderately emetogenic agent carboplatin as well [45-48]. These studies demonstrated that the rate of complete response (no emesis, no rescue) increased by 10 to 15 percent with the addition of an NK1R antagonist to dexamethasone and a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist compared with the combination of dexamethasone and a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist. On the other hand, the value of an NK1R antagonist is less certain for oxaliplatin; two large randomized trials have come to opposite conclusions [49,50].
Rolapitant is a potent selective NK1R antagonist with a longer plasma half-life (approximately seven days) than aprepitant. NEPA is a novel, oral fixed-dose combination containing 300 mg of netupitant (a highly selective NK1R antagonist) and 0.5 mg of the 5-HT3 receptor antagonist palonosetron. Casopitant is another NK1R antagonist that can be given as a single day 1 oral dose or in a mixed IV plus oral three-day schedule in conjunction with dexamethasone and ondansetron; commercial development of this agent is not being pursued.
Aprepitant and fosaprepitant
Efficacy — The benefit of combining an NK1R antagonist (aprepitant, fosaprepitant, or casopitant) with an 5-HT3 receptor antagonist plus a glucocorticoid for the prevention of acute CINV was addressed in a meta-analysis of 17 trials, totaling 8740 patients who were receiving highly or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy . The addition of an NK1R antagonist to standard antiemetic therapy significantly improved the rate of complete response (absence of emesis and no need for rescue antiemetics) in the overall (during the first 120 hours of chemotherapy, 72 versus 54 percent, odds ratio [OR] 0.51, 95% CI 0.46-0.57), acute (first 24 hours, OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.48-0.65), as well as delayed phase (OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.42-0.56). For other secondary outcomes (rate of emesis, absence of nausea), the addition of an NK1R antagonist was also superior to the control arm.
In subgroup analyses, benefit was seen for both highly emetogenic (complete response 73 versus 54 percent, OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.40-0.53) and moderately emetogenic chemotherapy (complete response 71 versus 54 percent, OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.61-0.67). There appeared to be no differences in treatment efficacy for aprepitant/fosaprepitant and casopitant. The use of an NK1R antagonist did not increase the risk of diarrhea, although the rates of hiccups and fatigue/asthenia were significantly higher. There was a suggestion that use of an NK1R antagonist increased the risk of a severe infection (6 versus 2 percent in a pooled analysis of three trials); however, this was not associated with an increased rate of neutropenia or febrile neutropenia.
Need for a 5-HT3 agent — Aprepitant and fosaprepitant improve control of CINV when combined with a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist and dexamethasone. Aprepitant plus dexamethasone alone is not as effective as the three-drug combination regimen. A 5-HT3 receptor antagonist remains necessary, at least in patients receiving cisplatin-based chemotherapy.
This was illustrated by a randomized trial in which patients receiving cisplatin chemotherapy were randomly assigned to the combination of aprepitant plus granisetron, granisetron, or aprepitant (on one of two schedules) . All patients also received dexamethasone (20 mg orally) before cisplatin. While the three-drug combination blocked emesis in 80 percent of patients, dexamethasone plus either granisetron or aprepitant was effective in only 57 and 43 to 46 percent of cases, respectively.
One- versus three-day administration — In the United States, both aprepitant and fosaprepitant are approved for use in three-day schedules. However, a single-day dosing schedule for fosaprepitant was approved by the FDA based upon the results of a phase III trial involving 2247 patients receiving single-day cisplatin (>70 mg/m2)-based chemotherapy . The control group received aprepitant administered in the standard three-day schedule along with ondansetron plus dexamethasone; this was compared with a single 150 mg dose of fosaprepitant combined with ondansetron on day 1 plus dexamethasone on days 2, 3, and 4. Complete antiemetic response rates were nearly identical between the aprepitant and fosaprepitant arms (72.3 versus 71.9 percent).
Issues related to inhibition of CYP3A4 — NK1R antagonists such as aprepitant and fosaprepitant are moderate inhibitors of the cytochrome P450 3A4 enzyme (CYP3A4), which is particularly important in drug metabolism .
CYP3A4 is responsible for the metabolism of glucocorticoids, and thus, the dose of dexamethasone was reduced in clinical trials from 20 to 12 mg on day 1 and from 8 mg twice daily to 8 mg daily on days 2 and 3 when given concurrently with aprepitant [55-57]. This dose reduction applies only when glucocorticoids are used as antiemetics in conjunction with NK1R antagonists, not when given as an antitumor component of a chemotherapy regimen .
Theoretically, aprepitant could decrease the clearance of drugs metabolized by CYP3A4 (cyclophosphamide, docetaxel, etoposide, irinotecan, vinca alkaloids), resulting in prolonged exposure and increased toxicity. However, there is no clinical evidence that this actually occurs [57,58].
Netupitant plus palonosetron — NEPA is a novel, oral fixed-dose combination containing 300 mg of netupitant (a highly selective NK1R antagonist) and 0.5 mg of palonosetron, a pharmacologically and clinically distinct 5-HT3 receptor antagonist. (See 'Palonosetron' above.)
Single-dose NEPA in conjunction with dexamethasone for control of both acute and delayed nausea and emesis has been compared with palonosetron plus dexamethasone [59,60] and aprepitant plus a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist and dexamethasone [60,61] in three trials conducted in populations receiving either moderately or highly emetogenic chemotherapy:
●In a phase II dose finding study, 694 patients receiving cisplatin-containing chemotherapy were randomly assigned to NEPA at one of three different oral doses (100, 200, or 300 mg) plus palonosetron 0.5 mg on day one, palonosetron only (0.5 mg), or standard three-day aprepitant plus IV ondansetron; all patients received dexamethasone on days 1 through 4 . Each dose of NEPA provided superior prevention of CINV, with the highest NEPA dose showing the greatest incremental benefit (complete protection from emesis and no rescue medication needed through hour 120 in 87, 88, and 90 percent of patients treated with 100, 200, and 300 mg of netupitant, respectively, compared with 77 percent for palonosetron alone and 87 percent for aprepitant plus 5-HT3 antagonist). Adverse events were comparable across groups.
●Efficacy of NEPA over multiple cycles of chemotherapy was evaluated in a phase III randomized trial in which 413 patients receiving a variety of moderately (carboplatin, oxaliplatin, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, irinotecan, epirubicin, daunorubicin) or highly emetogenic (cisplatin, dacarbazine, carmustine) chemotherapy were randomly assigned to NEPA given on day 1 with oral dexamethasone versus a three-day regimen of aprepitant plus palonosetron and dexamethasone . In both groups, dexamethasone was administered on days 1 through 4 for highly emetogenic chemotherapy and on day 1 only for moderately emetogenic chemotherapy. During cycle 1, complete response rates (no emesis and no need for rescue medication through hour 120) were 81 and 76 percent for NEPA and aprepitant/palonosetron, respectively, and antiemetic efficacy was maintained over multiple cycles. The NEPA group showed a small but consistent numerical advantage (2 to 7 percent) over aprepitant and palonosetron during all cycles. The incidence and type of adverse events was similar in both group.
Although these two trials included arms comparing NEPA versus a three-day aprepitant-containing regimen, neither trial was designed to provide a definitive comparison of the relative efficacy of NEPA and the aprepitant-containing regimen.
●The third trial compared NEPA with palonosetron in 1455 patients receiving cyclophosphamide plus an anthracycline (either doxorubicin or epirubicin); all patients also received dexamethasone on day 1 only . The percentage of patients with a complete response (through hour 120) was significantly higher with NEPA (74 versus 67 percent, p = 0.001). NEPA was well tolerated and had a similar safety profile to palonosetron.
Based upon these data, NEPA was approved in the United States for prevention of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in October 2014 . An important point is that, if NEPA is used in the setting of anthracycline plus cyclophosphamide chemotherapy, routine maintenance antiemetic therapy is not recommended after day 1. If used with a cisplatin-containing regimen, dexamethasone is recommended on days 1 through 4.
Like aprepitant and fosaprepitant, netupitant is also an inhibitor of CYP3A4, and a reduced dose of concurrently administered glucocorticoids is needed. (See 'Issues related to inhibition of CYP3A4' above.)
Rolapitant — Rolapitant is a potent selective NK1R antagonist with a longer plasma half-life (approximately seven days) than either aprepitant or fosaprepitant. Safety and efficacy were established in three randomized, double-blind trials in which rolapitant (180 mg orally, one to two hours before chemotherapy administration) in combination with IV granisetron on day 1 and dexamethasone (20 mg on day 1 followed by 8 mg twice daily on days 2 to 4 of cycle 1) was compared with a control therapy (placebo with the same dose and schedule of granisetron and dexamethasone) in patients receiving highly emetogenic (eg, cisplatin or anthracycline plus cyclophosphamide) or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy agents [63,64]. Patients treated with rolapitant had a significantly greater protection from delayed emesis, but there was less consistency in the acute phase of CINV, with the moderately emetogenic trial and one of the highly emetogenic studies failing to show a significant improvement in emesis control within 24 hours of chemotherapy.
Unlike aprepitant and fosaprepitant, which are moderate inhibitors of CYP3A4, rolapitant does not inhibit this metabolic pathway, and therefore, no adjustment of dexamethasone dose is required. Rolapitant does inhibit the cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) enzyme, which is responsible for metabolizing certain drugs, such as thioridazine; the use of both drugs together is not recommended.
Rolapitant is approved in adults, in combination with other antiemetic agents, to prevent delayed nausea and vomiting associated with the initial and repeat courses of emetogenic cancer chemotherapy. No clinical trials have yet reported a definitive direct comparison of any of the available NK1R antagonists.
Glucocorticoids — Short courses of glucocorticoids are widely used both as single agents for regimens with low risk of causing CINV and in combination with 5-HT3 receptor inhibitors and/or NK1R antagonists for more emetic chemotherapy regimens. When used in this fashion, glucocorticoids have a high therapeutic index. Although the various glucocorticoids are probably equally effective when used at an appropriate dose, dexamethasone has been the most extensively evaluated and is the most widely used.
Single agent — Single-agent dexamethasone has been compared with either placebo or no treatment in a number of randomized trials. A meta-analysis of 32 randomized trials evaluated 5613 patients who received moderately or highly emetogenic chemotherapy . Dexamethasone was superior to placebo or no treatment for complete protection from both acute emesis (risk ratio [RR] 1.30) and delayed emesis (RR 1.30). However, dexamethasone as a single agent is insufficient to control CINV in most of these patients .
Combination with a 5-HT3 antagonist — Glucocorticoids alone represent insufficient first-line therapy for patients receiving either moderate or highly emetic chemotherapy agents. However, the antiemetic efficacy of the 5-HT3 receptor antagonists is significantly enhanced by the addition of a glucocorticoid [10,66-70].
Benefit for combined therapy was shown in a meta-analysis of 3791 patients enrolled in 22 randomized trials, in which a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist plus dexamethasone was compared with a 5-HT3 antagonist plus placebo or no treatment in patients receiving moderate or highly emetic chemotherapy . The pooled RR for emesis protection was 1.25, indicating that the addition of dexamethasone increased the chance of no acute vomiting by 25 percent.
Dose — The impact of glucocorticoid dose was explored in a double-blind trial that randomly assigned 531 patients receiving cisplatin ≥50 mg/m2 to one of four IV doses of dexamethasone administered by a 15-minute infusion prior to cisplatin administration . All patients received 8 mg of ondansetron as well. At doses of 20, 12, 8, and 4 mg, complete protection from vomiting was achieved in 83, 79, 69, and 69 percent of patients, respectively, and nausea was prevented in 71, 67, 61, and 61 percent.
The optimal dose of dexamethasone for highly to moderately emetic chemotherapy not containing cisplatin was evaluated by the Italian Group for Antiemetic Research . In this trial, all patients received IV ondansetron and were randomized to one of three schedules of dexamethasone (either 8 or 24 mg IV prior to chemotherapy, or 8 mg IV before treatment followed by 4 mg every six hours). Rates of complete protection from acute or delayed emesis were similar among the groups, and the authors concluded that a single 8 mg IV dose prior to chemotherapy represented the appropriate dexamethasone regimen.
Olanzapine — Conventional antiemetics are more successful at preventing emesis than at preventing nausea, particularly delayed nausea. Olanzapine, a second-generation antipsychotic that blocks serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT2) receptors and dopamine D2 receptors, may be a particularly useful agent for the prevention of both acute and delayed nausea and vomiting. The superiority of a prophylactic regimen including olanzapine over other antiemetic regimens not including olanzapine was addressed in a meta-analysis of 10 randomized trials in patients receiving highly or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy . The analysis concluded that the inclusion of olanzapine was statistically superior to other standard antiemetic regimens in both no delayed emesis (RR 1.31, 95% CI 1.14-1.52) and no nausea (RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.15-1.97). However, 7 of the 10 did not include a standard antiemetic regimen for highly emetogenic chemotherapy (ie, one containing aprepitant or fosaprepitant) in the control arm. Furthermore, data from two of the randomized trials that did include a standard antiemetic regimen in the control arm were derived from abstracts presented in 2009 and 2011 (one of which was since published ) with no attempt to update the results.
●In an early trial, 44 patients receiving moderately or highly emetogenic chemotherapy were randomly assigned to an NK1R antagonist, a 5-HT3 antagonist, plus a glucocorticoid with olanzapine (5 mg per day for five days) or placebo . The rate of patients achieving total control (the primary endpoint, which included no vomiting, no use of rescue medications, and maximum nausea of <5 on a scale of 0 to 100mm) was significantly higher with olanzapine (59 versus 23 percent). Side effect profiles were not reported. The rate of complete response in the control group was very low by modern standards; all other studies of combined NK1R antagonist/5-HT3 antagonist/dexamethasone have been ≥70 percent. (See 'Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists' above.)
●In the most recent trial, 380 patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy (cisplatin ≥70 mg/m2 or cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin) were randomly assigned to dexamethasone, aprepitant or fosaprepitant, and a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist with either olanzapine (10 mg daily, orally, on days 1 through 4) or placebo . The proportion of no patients with chemotherapy-induced nausea (the primary endpoint) was significantly higher with olanzapine, both in the first 24 hours after chemotherapy (74 versus 45 percent) and in the delayed period (42 versus 25 percent, p = 0.002). Rates of complete response (no emesis and no use of rescue medication) were also higher with olanzapine in the acute phase (86 versus 65 percent), delayed phase (67 versus 52 percent), and over the 120-hour period (64 versus 41 percent). The 41 percent complete response rate over the entire 120-hour period for the placebo group is very low by modern standards. Although not reported in the full manuscript, superiority for the olanzapine-containing arm was demonstrated in a subset analysis of both the cisplatin- and anthracycline/cyclophosphamide-treated patients . The addition of olanzapine resulted in more sedation on day 2 (severe in 5 percent), which resolved thereafter, despite the continued use of olanzapine.
This trial represents the first phase III antiemetic trial supported by the United States National Cancer Institute Cooperative Clinical Trials Network. It is a landmark study that effectively establishes a new standard treatment option for patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy. However, the optimal dose of prophylactic olanzapine is not yet established. Although the study used 10 mg daily, 5 mg, rather than 10 mg, may be a more appropriate dose for most patients, given the potential for excess sedation with the 10 mg dose.
●A separate issue is whether olanzapine can replace an NK1R antagonist for prevention of delayed emesis in patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy. This issue was addressed in a phase III trial in which 247 patients receiving cisplatin or doxorubicin plus cyclophosphamide were randomly assigned to olanzapine (10 mg orally on the day of chemotherapy, and then 10 mg once daily on days 2 through 4) or aprepitant (125 mg orally prior to chemotherapy, followed by 80 mg orally on days 2 and 3), both in combination with palonosetron (0.25 IV on the day of chemotherapy) plus dexamethasone . Dexamethasone (20 mg) was only given on the day of chemotherapy, while the aprepitant group received dexamethasone 12 mg on the day of chemotherapy followed by dexamethasone 4 mg twice daily on days 2 and 3. Following cycle 1, rates of prevention of acute nausea (87 percent in both the olanzapine and aprepitant groups) and of complete control of acute (97 versus 87 percent) and delayed vomiting (77 versus 73 percent) were similar. However, patients treated with olanzapine had a significantly higher rate of nausea control in the delayed period (69 versus 38 percent). The results were maintained during cycles 2 to 4.
Other agents — Other agents that have been used in the treatment or prevention of CINV include dopaminergic antagonists such as phenothiazines (eg, prochlorperazine, levomepromazine outside of the United States), metoclopramide, and butyrophenones, as well as cannabinoids such as dronabinol. These agents have a lower therapeutic index than the 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, NK1R antagonists, and glucocorticoids for highly or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy regimens. Their use should be restricted to patients who are intolerant of or refractory to these first-line agents. The benefits of synthetic oral cannabinoids in this setting remain controversial given the lack of evidence on their safety and efficacy [8,79-82]. Phenothiazines could be used as an alternative to single-agent dexamethasone for those receiving chemotherapy with a low risk of emesis, if a glucocorticoid is contraindicated . (See "Characteristics of antiemetic drugs".)
PREVENTION OF DELAYED EMESIS — Delayed emesis is defined by its occurrence more than 24 hours after chemotherapy. Although it is most common following high-dose cisplatin [83-85], delayed emesis may occur with other agents as well .
Regimens with a high risk of delayed emesis — The risk of delayed emesis after cisplatin (doses >70 mg/m2) ranges between 60 and 90 percent in the absence of effective prophylaxis. The risk of delayed emesis without any prophylaxis is estimated to be between 20 and 30 percent in patients receiving chemotherapy with an anthracycline plus cyclophosphamide (AC) .
Although the risk of delayed emesis has been best studied with high-dose cisplatin and the combination of doxorubicin plus cyclophosphamide (in patients treated for breast cancer), several moderately emetogenic agents are also associated with delayed emesis. These include doxorubicin ≥40 mg/m2 as a single agent or ≥25 mg/m2 in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents (especially cyclophosphamide), epirubicin ≥75 mg/m2 as a single agent or ≥50 mg/m2 when given in combination with other agents, combinations of cyclophosphamide ≥600 mg/m2 with other drugs, carboplatin ≥300 mg/m2, and oxaliplatin (as used in the FOLFOX [oxaliplatin plus short-term infusional fluorouracil and leucovorin] regimen for advanced colorectal cancer) [22,87-90]. One study found that, among 68 patients treated with one of these regimens who had no postchemotherapy vomiting in the 24 hours after administration of prechemotherapy ondansetron and dexamethasone, 28 (41 percent) vomited in the next four days when no further antiemetics were given . This frequency was reduced to 15 of 75 (20 percent) when ondansetron was continued.
Management — A variety of antiemetic agents have demonstrated value in the prevention of delayed emesis. The most important classes of agents have been the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) antagonists , corticosteroids [83,85], and more recently, olanzapine . The data supporting the latter agents in delayed emesis are reviewed in the sections above. Additional agents that may have some value in some delayed emesis settings include metoclopramide and the type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonists.
NK1R antagonist plus dexamethasone and 5-HT3 antagonist — For most patients undergoing treatment with cisplatin or other (non-AC) highly emetogenic chemotherapy agents the recommended regimen to prevent delayed emesis is an NK1R antagonist combined with dexamethasone, a 5-HT3 antagonist, and olanzapine on day 1, followed by a combination of dexamethasone on days 2 to 4 and olanzapine on days 2 to 4. (See 'Cisplatin and other highly emetogenic single agents' above.)
The optimal way to prevent delayed emesis in patients receiving AC for breast cancer is controversial. Data supporting dexamethasone beyond day 1 when an NK1R antagonist is used are very limited:
●Phase III trials using the new NK1R antagonists netupitant and rolapitant used dexamethasone on day 1 only and achieved high rates of total control of CINV [59,63]. (See 'Netupitant plus palonosetron' above and 'Rolapitant' above.)
●Another randomized trial conducted exclusively in this population that used aprepitant or ondansetron on days 2 and 3, and gave dexamethasone on day 1 only also reported high rates of total control of CINV . (See 'Efficacy' above.)
●Another trial compared aprepitant alone with dexamethasone on days 2 and 3 for preventing delayed emesis after AC, with all patients receiving aprepitant, palonosetron, and dexamethasone on day 1, and showed no significant difference in outcomes .
What has not been studied is whether continuing dexamethasone on days 2 and 3 after a long-acting NK1R antagonist on day 1 (eg, fosaprepitant, rolapitant) is better than just the long-acting NK1RA alone on day 1, or if aprepitant used on day 1 followed by dexamethasone and aprepitant on days 2 to 3 is better than aprepitant alone continued on days 2 and 3. Until these studies are done, it is difficult to conclude that there is benefit for adding dexamethasone on days 2 and 3 in patients receiving AC who have received a long-acting NK1R antagonist on day 1.
Metoclopramide in patients receiving cisplatin — All of the trials examining the benefit of aprepitant to prevent delayed CINV used a three-day schedule of administration in conjunction with oral glucocorticoids. Single-day administration is approved for fosaprepitant but not aprepitant. (See 'Efficacy' above.)
The use of metoclopramide as a substitute for aprepitant on days 2 and 3 was addressed in a randomized trial in which 303 previously untreated patients received a cisplatin-based chemotherapy regimen . All patients received the same regimen to prevent acute emesis on day 1 (aprepitant 125 mg, dexamethasone 8 mg, and palonosetron 0.25 mg) and were randomly assigned to dexamethasone 8 mg daily plus either metoclopramide 20 mg four times a day or aprepitant 80 mg daily on days 2 and 3. The primary endpoint was complete response (no vomiting or rescue medication on days 2 through 5 after chemotherapy). The complete response rate was not significantly different (80.3 versus 82.5 for aprepitant and metoclopramide, respectively), as were all secondary endpoints, including no nausea, and adverse events were not significantly different. The authors concluded that aprepitant was not superior to metoclopramide for control of delayed emesis after cisplatin when used in conjunction with dexamethasone after day 1 of chemotherapy.
Given that many institutions have switched over to day 1 single-dose fosaprepitant followed by dexamethasone alone on days 2 to 3, rather than three-day aprepitant plus dexamethasone, to prevent delayed emesis, the relevance of these results to current clinical practice is unclear.
5-HT3 antagonists alone — Conflicting results have been described with the use of first-generation type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonists as single agents for protection against delayed emesis [83,93-97]. Although some benefit has been seen when these agents are used as monotherapy, the benefit has not been as great as that seen with glucocorticoids. Furthermore, continuing a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist beyond 24 hours along with glucocorticoids did not confer additional benefit compared with corticosteroids alone. Thus, the use of 5-HT3 receptor antagonists as a sole maneuver to prevent delayed emesis in patients receiving cisplatin is not recommended.
●In a phase III trial of patients receiving cisplatin-based chemotherapy, palonosetron (at one of two doses, either 0.25 mg or 0.75 mg) yielded higher rates of emetic control compared with ondansetron in preventing delayed emesis (complete response rates of 45 and 48 versus 39 percent, respectively), although the results were not statistically significant . However, in a subset analysis, palonosetron 0.25 mg was superior to ondansetron for control of delayed and overall emesis in patients receiving concomitant dexamethasone.
●The superiority of palonosetron for prevention of delayed emesis was also shown in another phase III trial in which 1114 patients receiving cisplatin or an AC combination were randomly assigned to a single dose of palonosetron or granisetron 30 minutes prior to chemotherapy, with all patients receiving dexamethasone for three days . Significantly better control of delayed emesis was achieved in both the cisplatin and AC subgroups on the palonosetron arm (complete response 57 versus 45 percent with granisetron).
Moderate-risk regimens — The incidence of delayed emesis following treatment with moderate-risk regimens is not well characterized. Cyclophosphamide- or doxorubicin-based regimens used for diseases other than breast cancer, as well as carboplatin and oxaliplatin, can cause delayed emesis. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Delayed emesis'.)
There are no clear supportive data for the benefit of NK1R antagonists in patients receiving moderately emetogenic chemotherapy, with the exception of carboplatin-containing regimens [45-48,98]. (See 'Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists' above.)
For patients receiving other moderately emetogenic regimens with a risk of delayed emesis, glucocorticoids are consistently useful agents. The value of maintenance dexamethasone was demonstrated in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of patients undergoing cyclophosphamide-based chemotherapy . In this trial, 98 patients were given granisetron and dexamethasone before chemotherapy and randomized to receive oral dexamethasone 4 mg twice daily either as maintenance or no maintenance. Maintenance dexamethasone was associated with a higher rate of complete (57 versus 33 percent) and major control (33 versus 15 percent) of delayed emesis. No trials have examined the benefit of maintenance dexamethasone in patients treated with carboplatin who have received an NK1R antagonist.
The 5-HT3 receptor antagonists also have activity as single agents for delayed emesis with cyclophosphamide-based chemotherapy . However, there is no evidence that they are superior to dexamethasone alone or that combination therapy with dexamethasone is superior to dexamethasone alone [86,87].
A randomized trial of 708 patients receiving moderately emetogenic chemotherapy and concurrent antiemetics illustrates the relative roles of dexamethasone and 5-HT3 receptor antagonists in the management of delayed emesis :
●Patients without acute nausea or vomiting (the low-risk group) were randomized to receive dexamethasone (4 mg orally, twice daily on days 2 through 5) plus ondansetron (8 mg orally, twice daily on days 2 through 5), dexamethasone alone on the same schedule, or a placebo. Among these 618 patients, there was a complete absence of delayed nausea and vomiting in 92, 87, and 77 percent of patients in the combined therapy, dexamethasone, and placebo groups, respectively. Protection with dexamethasone alone or with dexamethasone plus ondansetron was better than that with placebo; however, the combination was not statistically superior to dexamethasone alone. Results according to the different moderately emetogenic agents were not provided.
●The key factor in preventing delayed emesis was the control of acute symptoms following chemotherapy. Patients who had either vomiting or moderate to severe nausea in the 24 hours following chemotherapy constituted a high-risk group. These 87 patients were randomly assigned to oral dexamethasone alone or in combination with ondansetron, at the same doses and schedules as in the low-risk group. Despite treatment, complete protection from delayed emesis or moderate to severe nausea was achieved in only 41 and 23 percent of patients treated with the combination and dexamethasone, respectively.
The relative roles of palonosetron and aprepitant in controlling delayed nausea were studied in a randomized trial of 944 evaluable patients receiving primarily (95 percent) moderately emetogenic chemotherapy . Palonosetron did not provide superior control of delayed nausea compared with granisetron when both were provided on day 1 with dexamethasone and when prochlorperazine was administered on days 2 and 3. In addition, aprepitant was not more effective than prochlorperazine when both were combined with dexamethasone on days 2 and 3.
ANTICIPATORY EMESIS — The primary approach to the prevention of anticipatory emesis is the prevention of CINV beginning with the initial cycles of chemotherapy. For patients who do develop anticipatory emesis, we suggest behavioral therapy or benzodiazepines. These recommendations are in keeping with guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)/Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) [3,4,100].
Anticipatory nausea and emesis are conditioned responses that occur in patients who experienced severe nausea and vomiting during prior cycles of chemotherapy , and that appear to be induced by sensory cues and cognitive anticipation of subsequent chemotherapy. Anticipatory nausea has also been described among patients who have a high expectation of developing nausea despite never having received chemotherapy . Anticipatory nausea is more commonly reported than is anticipatory emesis (14 versus 1 to 2 percent in one study ).
The most effective means to prevent anticipatory nausea or emesis is to ensure good control of acute and delayed emesis, starting from the initial chemotherapy cycle (table 4). Once anticipatory emesis has been established, nonpharmacologic methods (eg, hypnosis, behavioral therapy with systemic desensitization) may be effective [104-106]. (See 'Complementary therapies' below and "Complementary and alternative therapies for cancer".)
Although few formal trials have been carried out, benzodiazepines before and during chemotherapy may be useful [107-109]. In one double-blind trial of 57 women undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy for primary breast cancer, for example, the addition of low-dose alprazolam (0.5 to 2 mg/day) to a psychologic support program including progressive relaxation training was associated with a significantly reduced rate of anticipatory nausea compared with placebo (0 versus 18 percent) .
Consecutive-day intravenous therapy with highly emetogenic agents — For patients receiving multiday (three or more) regimens that are moderately or highly emetogenic (eg, five days of cisplatin in regimens for testicular or ovarian germ cell cancer), we suggest the use of a daily dose of a first-generation type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonist, or a single application of a granisetron transdermal patch or palonosetron on days 1, 3, and 5 plus daily dexamethasone, with the addition of aprepitant (days 1, 2, and 3) or another neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) antagonist (fosaprepitant, netupitant plus palonosetron [NEPA], or rolapitant) on day 1 for highly emetogenic regimens.
When moderately or highly emetogenic chemotherapy agents (eg, cisplatin, dacarbazine) are administered on several consecutive days, prophylaxis is more difficult. This may be due to anticipatory emesis on the subsequent days of therapy or to the compounding of acute and delayed effects of treatment. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) antiemetic guidelines suggest that antiemetics appropriate for the emetogenic risk class of the chemotherapy be administered for each day of the chemotherapy and for two days after, if appropriate [3,4].
Trials conducted before the availability of NK1R antagonists suggested that repetitive daily dosing with a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist combined with dexamethasone was the best approach [110,111]. However, the benefit of adding aprepitant to a 5-HT3 antagonist and dexamethasone was shown in small trial of patients receiving a five-day cisplatin-containing chemotherapy regimen for germ cell cancer . All patients received a 5-HT3 antagonist (other than palonosetron) once daily on days 1 through 5 plus dexamethasone 20 mg once daily on days 1 and 2, and were randomly assigned to aprepitant (125 mg on day 3, 80 mg on days 4 and 5) or no aprepitant. The group receiving aprepitant also received dexamethasone 4 mg twice daily on days 6, 7, and 8, while the placebo group received dexamethasone 8 mg twice daily on days 6 and 7, and 4 mg twice daily on day 8. A complete response (no emetic episodes and no use of rescue medication) was noted in significantly more patients receiving aprepitant (42 versus 13 percent), and the visual analog scale (VAS) score for nausea was numerically lower for aprepitant, although the difference compared with placebo was not statistically significant.
Whether a similar degree of protection can be gained by substituting one day of fosaprepitant for three days of aprepitant is not clear. A phase II study conducted by the Hoosier Oncology Group in 65 patients receiving a five-day chemotherapy regimen for germ cell cancer reported a lower than expected rate of complete response (13 of 51 assessable patients, 24 percent) . Although the authors provided a rationale for starting the NK1R on day 3 rather than on day 1, the optimal schedule for NK1R antagonists for patients receiving consecutive-day therapy with highly emetogenic chemotherapy is unknown, given the lack of comparative trials addressing this question. For regimens containing five days of cisplatin (eg, for testicular germ cell cancer), we suggest a daily dose of a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist (or granisetron transdermal patch) or palonosetron on days 1, 3, and 5 plus dexamethasone, with the addition of an NK1R antagonist starting on day 1.
Granisetron transdermal patch — A transdermal preparation of granisetron is available (Sancuso) that contains 34.3 mg of granisetron and is designed to deliver 3.1 mg of the drug every 24 hours for up to seven days. The efficacy of the granisetron patch relative to daily oral administration of granisetron was shown in a multinational, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy controlled trial in which 641 patients receiving the first cycle of a multiday regimen of either moderately or highly emetogenic chemotherapy were randomly assigned to the patch (applied 24 to 48 hours before the first day of chemotherapy) plus a placebo capsule or to oral granisetron (2 mg daily, one hour prior to chemotherapy on each day of chemotherapy administration) plus a placebo patch . Concurrent glucocorticoids, which were administered at the investigator's discretion, were given to approximately 70 percent of the patients in each arm.
The percentage of patients who had complete control of nausea and vomiting until 24 hours after the last chemotherapy dose was not worse with the transdermal patch (60 versus 65 percent with oral granisetron). Less than 1 percent of the patches became detached during treatment. In both groups, the most commonly reported toxicities were constipation and headache.
Based upon this trial, the granisetron transdermal system was approved in the United States for the prevention of CINV in patients receiving multiday, moderately or highly emetogenic, intravenous chemotherapy for up to five days. It is recommended that the patch be applied to the upper outer arm a minimum of 24 hours before chemotherapy and removed 24 hours or more after the last chemotherapy dose is administered. It can be worn for up to seven days, depending on the duration of the chemotherapy regimen [115,116].
Induction therapy for acute leukemia — High-dose cytarabine regimens (in which cytarabine is administered daily for five or seven days, often with an anthracycline) are the cornerstone of treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Few studies have addressed the issue of CINV and optimal prophylaxis in this setting [37,117,118]. Although data are lacking, a daily dose of a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist (eg, ondansetron 16 mg) with or without dexamethasone appears to be a reasonable option in this setting.
High-dose chemotherapy regimens — For patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy, we recommend a combination of dexamethasone, a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, and an NK1R antagonist.
The use of high-dose chemotherapy in association with a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant presents a special challenge to achieving good antiemetic control. The chemotherapy agents employed are often of moderate to high emetogenic risk.
In addition, there are a number of potential factors that can contribute to an increased incidence and severity of CINV in this setting:
●Higher doses of chemotherapy
●Prior treatment with chemotherapy
●Inclusion of radiation therapy (especially total body irradiation), which has high emetogenic risk
●Associated other medical conditions or medications that may cause emesis
There are a limited number of randomized trials specifically studying the issue of emesis in the high-dose chemotherapy setting [119-122]. Most studies have focused on the combination of a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist and dexamethasone [123-126]. However, a role for aprepitant in this setting is supported by two phase III trials:
●In one trial, 181 patients undergoing a preparative regimen for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation were randomly assigned to ondansetron plus dexamethasone and either aprepitant or placebo . Significantly better emetic control was noted in patients who received aprepitant (no emesis for the entire study period in 73 versus 23 percent of the placebo group), although there were no differences between the groups in use of rescue antiemetics.
●Benefit for aprepitant was also noted in a second phase III trial in which 362 patients with multiple myeloma undergoing autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation after high-dose melphalan were randomly assigned to granisetron plus dexamethasone and either aprepitant or placebo . Significantly more patients receiving aprepitant achieved the primary endpoint (no emesis and no need for rescue therapy within 120 hours of administration of high-dose melphalan, 58 versus 41 percent, p = 0.00042). Absence of major nausea (94 versus 88 percent) and emesis (78 versus 65 percent) within 120 hours also favored the aprepitant group.
The updated 2016 antiemetic guidelines from ASCO and the 2016 Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC)/European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) guidelines recommend a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist plus dexamethasone with consideration of aprepitant in this setting [4,129].
Oral chemotherapy — A severe limitation of current recommendations for prevention and treatment of CINV is the lack of guidance for patients receiving oral chemotherapy agents, which vary in their emetogenicity potential (table 2). Virtually all of the clinical trials evaluating prevention and treatment of CINV have focused on intravenously delivered chemotherapy. Therefore, evidenced-based guidelines for antiemetic prophylaxis with oral chemotherapy agents are not currently possible. Consensus-based guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend the following approach:
●High/moderate emetic risk agents – A 5-HT3 antagonist starting before chemotherapy and continuing daily. Options include:
•Dolasetron 100 mg daily
•Ondansetron 16 to 24 mg daily
•Granisetron 1 to 2 mg orally daily or a granisetron transdermal patch every seven days
●Low/minimal emetic risk agents – Treat only on an "as needed" basis. For patients who develop nausea/emesis during treatment, options include metoclopramide (10 to 20 mg orally, every six hours), prochlorperazine (10 mg orally, every six hours), haloperidol (1 to 2 mg orally, every four to six hours), or a daily dose of a 5-HT3 antagonist, as needed.
Poor control of emesis — Despite the use of appropriate antiemetic prophylaxis, many patients experience clinically significant CINV. Before considering any change in the antiemetic regimen, it is important to exclude other disease- and medication-related causes for emesis. Examples include the following:
●The use of opiate analgesics
●Certain antibiotics (eg, erythromycin)
●Central nervous system metastases
●Abdominopelvic radiation therapy
Assuming these factors are excluded, it is important to ensure that the patient is receiving the antiemetic appropriate for the drug(s) being given (table 1) and the correct dose (table 3). If the patient was receiving chemotherapy with low emetic risk and is experiencing poor emesis control, it is possible to adjust the regimen to that typically used for a higher risk group. The addition of a benzodiazepine may help to counter increased patient anxiety and possible anticipatory emesis. (See 'Anticipatory emesis' above.)
The majority of patients who have breakthrough emesis have derived some benefit from the original antiemetic regimen employed. One or two episodes of emesis with cisplatin is less than ideal but still reflects substantial antiemetic efficacy. Thus, the original antiemetic regimens should usually be retained.
Additional agents can be added, including lorazepam or alprazolam, olanzapine, a dopaminergic antagonist (eg, prochlorperazine, thiethylperazine, haloperidol), or substituting high-dose intravenous metoclopramide for the 5-HT3 antagonist [3,129].
Olanzapine — Olanzapine is a second-generation antipsychotic that blocks serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT2) receptors and dopamine D2 receptors. The superiority of a regimen including the antipsychotic olanzapine over other antiemetic regimens not including olanzapine was addressed in a meta-analysis of three studies conducted in the breakthrough setting in patients receiving highly or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy . The analysis concluded that olanzapine was statistically superior to other standard antiemetic regimens for breakthrough emesis (risk ratio 2.09, 95% CI 1.63-2.68). However, only one of the three trials was published (olanzapine versus metoclopramide) ; the other two (olanzapine plus dexamethasone versus prochlorperazine or metoclopramide in one trial, and versus dexamethasone or metoclopramide in the second trial) were presented in abstract form only, one in 2009 and the other in 2010 [131,132].
In the only published randomized trial, superiority for olanzapine (10 mg orally, daily for three days) over metoclopramide (10 mg orally, three times daily for three days) for treatment of breakthrough nausea and vomiting was shown in a double-blind randomized trial involving 80 patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy . During the 72-hour observation period, significantly more patients receiving olanzapine had no recurrent emesis (70 versus 31 percent) and no nausea (68 versus 23 percent).
These data suggest that olanzapine is preferred over metoclopramide alone. Although the optimal dose is not definitively established, a lower dose (5 as compared with 10 mg) may provide similar efficacy with a more favorable side effect profile .
Another alternative is to switch to a different serotonin antagonist since there may be incomplete cross-resistance between agents [134-136]. This approach was tested in a double-blind trial in which patients who failed ondansetron plus dexamethasone in the first 24 hours following highly emetogenic chemotherapy were randomly assigned to continue the same treatment or switch to granisetron plus dexamethasone. There was a significantly higher rate of complete protection from emesis in the patients who switched to granisetron (47 versus 5 percent) .
In other cases, chemotherapy can be altered. Alterations could include single-day instead of multiple-day therapy, lengthening infusion time, or substituting a less emetogenic agent, if such maneuvers do not compromise antitumor activity.
Cannabinoids and medical marijuana — The modest antiemetic activity of cannabinoids and cannabis combined with the relatively unfavorable side effect profile of this class of agents, especially in older patients, and the lack of trials comparing cannabinoids with newer antiemetics, such as the 5-HT3 antagonists,  has limited their clinical utility. Nevertheless, dronabinol is approved in the United States for CINV in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments, and guidelines from NCCN and ASCO  both state that cannabinoids such as dronabinol can be considered for refractory nausea and vomiting, and as a rescue antiemetic. Because of medical and legal concerns, the use of medical marijuana is not recommended for management of CINV and is not included in the most recent guidelines for CINV from the NCCN, ASCO, or MASCC/ESMO [3-5].
The potential antiemetic utility of cannabinoids was first observed in scattered reports of improved emetic control in patients using marijuana during chemotherapy . While an early prospective, uncontrolled pilot study from 1988 found that inhaled cannabis was effective in 78 percent of 56 patients who had inadequate control of nausea and vomiting with the conventional antiemetics that were available at that time , there have been no other clinical reports of efficacy of inhaled marijuana, and there are no controlled clinical trials comparing marijuana versus other rescue strategies in patients who are refractory to modern antiemetics .
Although concern about the abuse potential of cannabinoid drugs has slowed their development, several cannabinoid-type drugs are commercially available, and others are under study. The two United States-approved oral cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) are approved only for CINV and appetite stimulation in wasting illnesses, respectively. An oromucosal spray containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) plus cannabidiol (and smaller concentrations of other compounds), called nabiximols (Sativex), is approved in Canada and elsewhere (but not yet in the United States) for treatment of neuropathic pain due to multiple sclerosis and as an adjunctive treatment for pain in patients with advanced cancer . It is rapidly absorbed from the buccal mucosa, and the dose can be self-titrated by the patient.
The efficacy of cannabinoids for CINV was addressed in a systematic review of 28 studies (totaling 1772 participants, 9 with dronabinol, 14 with nabilone, 1 with nabiximols, 4 with levonantradol; Two studies evaluated a combination of dronabinol plus ondansetron or prochlorperazine) . Eight studies were placebo-controlled, and three of these also included an active comparator; 20 additional studies included only an active comparator. The most common active comparators were prochlorperazine, chlorpromazine, and domperidone. Risk of bias was high in 23 and unclear for the rest. When taken together, all studies suggested a greater benefit for cannabinoids compared with both the active comparator and placebo, but the benefit was not statistically significant in all studies. Notably, there was a significantly increased risk of short-term adverse effects with cannabinoids, including serious adverse events (odds ratio 1.41, 95% CI 1.04-1.92). Short-term adverse effects included dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, somnolence, euphoria, vomiting, disorientation, drowsiness, confusion, loss of balance, and hallucination.
Ginger — Conventional antiemetics are more successful at preventing emesis than at preventing nausea. A total of five randomized placebo-controlled trials have studied the benefit of ginger (Zingiber officinale) as an aid to reduce nausea during chemotherapy, with mixed results. Three demonstrate benefit, while two were completely negative:
●The largest trial randomly assigned 744 patients who experienced nausea following any chemotherapy cycle to placebo or supplemental ginger (at doses of 0.5, 1, or 1.5 g twice daily) for six days, starting three days prior to the first day of the next two chemotherapy cycles . All patients received a type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonist on day 1 of all cycles. Two-thirds of the enrolled patients were receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. All doses of ginger were associated with a significant reduction in acute nausea throughout day 1 of the chemotherapy cycles, although the largest reduction was seen with the 0.5 and 1 g doses. The authors concluded that ginger supplementation significantly aids in reduction of day 1 nausea during chemotherapy.
●A benefit for ginger root in conjunction with ondansetron and dexamethasone was also shown in a placebo-controlled randomized trial of 57 children and young adults receiving cisplatin/doxorubicin chemotherapy for bone sarcoma . Compared with conventional antiemetics, the addition of ginger (334 or 800 mg depending on the size of the patient) one hour before, and three and eight hours after the start of chemotherapy significantly reduced the incidence of both acute and delayed emesis.
●A third trial, conducted in 78 women with advanced breast cancer, also demonstrated a reduction in nausea up to 24 hours after chemotherapy from the addition of ginger (1500 mg daily for four days after chemotherapy) to standard antiemetics .
●However, in contrast to these results, a benefit for ginger in addition to conventional antiemetics (5-HT3 antagonists and/or aprepitant) could not be shown in a randomized, placebo-controlled phase II trial of 162 cancer patients who had suffered CINV during at least one prior cycle of chemotherapy . In fact, patients who took ginger plus aprepitant had more severe acute nausea than did those who took only aprepitant.
Benefit for ginger was also not confirmed in another trial in which 36 adult cancer patients receiving a cisplatin-based chemotherapy regimen were randomly assigned to standard antiemetics plus ginger capsules (1000 mg daily) or placebo for three days and crossed over to the alternative arm for the next cycle of treatment three weeks later . The use of ginger did not improve either acute or delayed nausea or emesis.
Acupuncture and related therapies — Several techniques have been used to stimulate the pericardium 6 (P6 or neiguan) site, which is commonly thought to be useful in the management of CINV. These include manual stimulation with the insertion of fine needles (acupuncture), electrostimulation, and noninvasive pressure on the skin over the P6 pressure point (ie, acupressure). Unfortunately, interpretation of the results of randomized trials is hampered by a high risk of bias in most studies and a lack of standardization of treatment methods and comparison groups. A year 2013 systematic review of acupuncture in cancer care included 11 randomized trials in which nausea and vomiting were assessed; eight were considered to have a high risk of bias . Only one trial  had a low risk of bias and was positive for short-term benefit of electroacupuncture after chemotherapy for breast cancer. The authors concluded that, based upon the single positive study with a low risk of bias, acupuncture could be considered an appropriate adjunctive treatment for intravenous CINV but that additional studies were needed. (See "Complementary and alternative therapies for cancer", section on 'Nausea and vomiting'.)
Other nonpharmacologic strategies — Findings from randomized controlled trials of reasonable quality provide limited support for several nonpharmacologic methods to reduce CINV, including cognitive distraction (eg, playing video games during treatment), systematic desensitization (a cognitive approach using visualization and learned relaxation techniques), exercise, hypnosis, acupuncture, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation [150,151]. (See "Complementary and alternative therapies for cancer" and "Acupuncture".)
INFORMATION FOR PATIENTS — UpToDate offers two types of patient education materials, "The Basics" and "Beyond the Basics." The Basics patient education pieces are written in plain language, at the 5th to 6th grade reading level, and they answer the four or five key questions a patient might have about a given condition. These articles are best for patients who want a general overview and who prefer short, easy-to-read materials. Beyond the Basics patient education pieces are longer, more sophisticated, and more detailed. These articles are written at the 10th to 12th grade reading level and are best for patients who want in-depth information and are comfortable with some medical jargon.
Here are the patient education articles that are relevant to this topic. We encourage you to print or e-mail these topics to your patients. (You can also locate patient education articles on a variety of subjects by searching on "patient info" and the keyword(s) of interest.)
●Basics topics (see "Patient education: Nausea and vomiting with cancer treatment (The Basics)")
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
●Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) remains an important adverse effect of treatment, despite recent advances in prevention. CINV is classified as acute, delayed, and anticipatory, and these distinctions have important implications for patient management. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Types of emesis'.)
●The most important factor determining the likelihood of acute or delayed emesis developing is the intrinsic emetogenicity of a particular chemotherapy agent (table 1 and table 2). (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Chemotherapy agent'.)
●The three categories of drugs with the highest therapeutic index for the management of CINV are the type three 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptor antagonists, the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) antagonists, and the glucocorticoids (especially dexamethasone) (table 3). In addition, more recent data have demonstrated substantial antiemetic activity for the antipsychotic medication olanzapine when used in combination with other antiemetics. (See '5-HT3 receptor antagonists' above and 'Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists' above and 'Glucocorticoids' above and 'Olanzapine' above.)
These agents are used alone (glucocorticoids) and in combinations depending on the specific chemotherapy regimen being administered, as recommended in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC)/European Society of Medical oncology (ESMO) guidelines [3-5]. (See 'Antiemetic efficacy of individual agents' above.)
Electrocardiogram (ECG) interval changes appear to be a class effect of the first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists. Their use should be avoided in patients with congenital long QT syndrome. Potassium and magnesium levels should be assessed and, if abnormal, corrected before initiation of treatment. ECG monitoring is recommended in patients with underlying cardiac disease, including heart failure and bradyarrhythmias, and in patients taking other medications that increase the risk of QTc prolongation (table 5). (See 'ECG interval changes and cardiac arrhythmias' above.)
Our recommendations for antiemetic prophylaxis for intravenously administered chemotherapy agents, which largely parallel those of MASCC/ESMO and ASCO, are outlined in the table (table 4) and summarized as follows:
Highly emetogenic regimens
●For patients receiving cisplatin and other highly emetogenic agents (table 1), we recommend antiemetic therapy with a combination of a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, dexamethasone, and an NK1R antagonist (Grade 1A). We also suggest the addition of olanzapine (Grade 2B). (See 'Highly emetogenic chemotherapy' above and 'Need for a 5-HT3 agent' above and 'Olanzapine' above.)
Details of the regimen are described above. (See 'Highly emetogenic chemotherapy' above.)
●For patients receiving an anthracycline plus cyclophosphamide for breast cancer, we use a similar regimen except we suggest not using dexamethasone on days 2 to 4 (Grade 2B). (See 'NK1R antagonist plus dexamethasone and 5-HT3 antagonist' above and 'Olanzapine' above.)
●For non-breast cancer populations receiving an anthracycline plus a cyclophosphamide-containing regimen, this prophylactic regimen is also reasonable. However, for patients who are receiving anthracycline/cyclophosphamide regimens that incorporate glucocorticoids (eg, for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), day 1 palonosetron alone, without the use of an NK1R antagonist or olanzapine, is an acceptable option. (See 'Other diseases' above and 'Palonosetron' above.)
Moderately emetogenic regimens
●For patients receiving carboplatin-based regimens, we recommend the combination of an NK1R antagonist, a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, and dexamethasone on day 1 (Grade 1B). (See 'Moderately emetogenic chemotherapy' above and 'Neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists' above.)
Additional prophylaxis beyond day 1 for delayed emesis is not needed for most patients.
●For patients receiving noncarboplatin-based regimens with a moderate risk for CINV (table 1), we recommend the combination of palonosetron plus dexamethasone on day 1 (Grade 1A). If palonosetron is not available, clinicians may substitute a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, such as granisetron or ondansetron. (See 'Palonosetron' above.)
●To prevent delayed emesis in this population, we suggest single-agent treatment with dexamethasone on days 2 and 3 (Grade 2B). If a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist is used rather than palonosetron on day 1, then treatment with a first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonist alone on days 2 and 3 is a reasonable alternative. (See 'Moderate-risk regimens' above.)
Low and minimal risk regimens
●For patients receiving low emetic risk agents (table 1), we suggest treatment with dexamethasone (4 to 8 mg) as a single agent (Grade 2C). An alternative approach for patients in whom glucocorticoid use is contraindicated or undesirable (such as with the use of long-term weekly chemotherapy) is a single dose of a phenothiazine-type drug, such as prochlorperazine or levomepromazine. (See 'Glucocorticoids' above and 'Other agents' above.)
●For most patients receiving chemotherapy agents with minimal risk of causing emesis (table 1), we suggest that antiemetic therapy not be routinely administered to prevent either acute or delayed CINV (Grade 2B). Prophylactic antiemetics (dexamethasone 4 to 8 mg, prochlorperazine, levomepromazine, or metoclopramide) may be administered to patients who have had emesis with prior low-risk regimens, or on an "as needed" basis. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting", section on 'Chemotherapy agent'.)
●The primary approach to the prevention of anticipatory emesis is the prevention of CINV beginning with the initial cycles of chemotherapy. For patients who do develop anticipatory emesis, we suggest behavioral therapy and/or benzodiazepines (Grade 2B). (See 'Anticipatory emesis' above.)
●For patients receiving high-dose intravenous chemotherapy, we recommend a combination of dexamethasone, a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, and an NK1R antagonist (Grade 1A). (See 'High-dose chemotherapy regimens' above.)
●For patients receiving multiday (three or more) intravenous regimens that are moderately or highly emetogenic, we suggest the use of a daily dose of an oral 5-HT3 receptor antagonist or a granisetron transdermal patch plus daily dexamethasone, with the addition of an NK1R antagonist for highly emetogenic regimens (eg, five days of cisplatin in regimens for testicular or ovarian germ cell cancer) (Grade 2C). (See 'Multiday regimens' above and 'Consecutive-day intravenous therapy with highly emetogenic agents' above.)
●If adequate control of CINV is not achieved with the initial antiemetic regimen, the patient's management should be reviewed to ensure that there are no other factors responsible for continued emesis and that adequate antiemetic therapy actually was administered for the given chemotherapy regimen. If CINV remains an issue, the addition of a second-line agent (such as olanzapine, if it was not initially administered), changing from one 5-HT3 receptor antagonist to another, or trying an agent from a different class than was used for prophylaxis (eg, prochlorperazine) may be useful. (See 'Poor emesis control/rescue therapy' above and 'Poor control of emesis' above and 'Other agents' above.)
The modest antiemetic activity of cannabinoids combined with their unfavorable side effect profile, especially in older patients, limits the clinical utility of this class of agents for treatment of refractory CINV. Nevertheless, guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and ASCO  both state that cannabinoids can be considered for refractory nausea and vomiting, and as a rescue antiemetic. The use of medical marijuana is not recommended for management of CINV in any guideline [3,5]. (See 'Cannabinoids and medical marijuana' above.)
●For patients receiving oral chemotherapy agents, which have a variable emetogenicity potential (table 2), there is no consensus as to the appropriate antiemetic strategy. Consensus-based guidelines from NCCN recommend the following approach (see 'Oral chemotherapy' above):
•High/moderate-risk agents – 5-HT3 antagonist starting before chemotherapy and continuing daily.
•Low/minimal-risk agents – Treat only on an "as needed" basis.
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