Prevention and management of antineoplastic-induced hypersensitivity reactions

Drug Saf. 2001;24(10):767-79. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200124100-00005.


Acute hypersensitivity reactions (HSRs) are an unpredictable and potentially catastrophic complication of treatment with chemotherapeutic agents. Reactions may affect any organ system in the body and range widely in severity from mild pruritus to systemic anaphylaxis. Certain classes of chemotherapeutic agents, such as the taxanes, platinum compounds, asparaginases, and epipodophyllotoxins are commonly associated with HSRs. The clinical characteristics of these high risk agents with respect to HSRs are discussed in this review. Protocols to prevent or reduce the severity of these reactions have been developed, but despite these attempts, HSRs will still happen. Should a reaction occur, it is imperative that it be recognised quickly in order to minimise exposure to the inciting agent and implement appropriate therapeutic and supportive measures. When a patient becomes sensitised to a chemotherapeutic agent, avoidance of re-exposure is the mainstay of future prevention. For sensitised patients who have derived clinically meaningful benefit from a particular agent, however, continuation of treatment with the agent is desirable. Options may include attempting a trial of desensitisation or treatment with a related compound. Virtually all patients demonstrating HSRs to paclitaxel and docetaxel are able to successfully tolerate re-treatment following discontinuation and administration of diphenhydramine and hydrocortisone. Re-treatment has generally been less successful with platinum compounds. with recurrent HSRs occurring in up to 50% of patients following desensitisation protocols. Patients sensitised to asparaginase are often able to tolerate the alternative preparations, Erwinia carotovora asparaginase or polyethylene glycol-modified Escherichia coli asparaginase. There is very little experience with re-treatment following sensitisation to the epipodophyllotoxins. As re-treatment may have serious consequences, careful consideration of the risks and benefits of these strategies is imperative when deciding among these options.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asparaginase / adverse effects
  • Asparaginase / therapeutic use
  • Docetaxel
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / adverse effects
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Paclitaxel / adverse effects
  • Paclitaxel / analogs & derivatives*
  • Paclitaxel / therapeutic use
  • Podophyllotoxin / adverse effects
  • Podophyllotoxin / therapeutic use
  • Taxoids*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Taxoids
  • Docetaxel
  • Asparaginase
  • Podophyllotoxin
  • Paclitaxel