John W. Eklund, MD | Authors

Chemotherapy Dosing in the Setting of Liver Dysfunction

July 01, 2005

Advanced cancer in the setting of liver dysfunction poses a dilemmafor physicians, as many cancer chemotherapeutic agents undergo hepaticmetabolism. Most cytotoxic drugs have a narrow therapeutic index,and the administration of chemotherapy to patients with liver impairmentresults in complicated safety issues. We present a concise reviewof cancer chemotherapy dosing in the setting of liver dysfunction.Although caution in treating all patients with hepatic failure is essential,the use of certain agents provokes greater concern than others.Continuous-infusion fluorouracil, capecitabine (Xeloda), mechlorethamine(Mustargen), cyclophosphamide, topotecan (Hycamtin), andoxaliplatin (Eloxatin) appear to be relatively well tolerated. On thecontrary, taxanes, vinca alkaloids, irinotecan (Camptosar), andanthracyclines may cause unacceptable toxicity if administered to patientswith poor hepatic function. For many anticancer agents, the paucityof data prohibits formal dosing recommendations, and most guidelinesremain empiric.