Part II: Liver function in oncology: towards safer chemotherapy use

Lancet Oncol. 2008 Dec;9(12):1181-90. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70307-3.


The liver is fundamentally important in drug metabolism. In oncology, the astute clinician must not only understand the meaning and limitations of commonly ordered liver biochemical tests, but also be aware of which anticancer agents might induce liver dysfunction, and of the strategies for appropriate dosing of patients with pre-existing liver dysfunction. In part I of our Review, we highlighted both the importance and inadequacies of identifying serum biochemical liver abnormalities in oncology; we also discussed a lack of routine formal investigation of liver function. We summarised chemotherapy-related hepatotoxicity and other causes of liver toxic effects in patients with cancer. Here in part II, we discuss trials that have specifically assessed chemotherapy dosing strategies in the setting of overt biochemical liver dysfunction and we note their recommendations. Furthermore, we review other assessments of liver metabolic and excretory function, particularly in the setting of chemotherapy drug handling. We discuss the potential use of these metabolic probes in practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Breath Tests
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Failure / chemically induced*
  • Liver Failure / metabolism
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers