Introduction: Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathies (CIPN) are major dose-limiting side effects of many anticancer drugs. The incidence of CIPN varies from 10 to 100% depending on the anticancer drug. The characteristics of CIPN are related to dose intensity, cumulative dose and anticancer drug. CIPN can profoundly affect the quality-of-life, often compelling clinicians to lower the chemotherapy regimen, consequently limiting therapeutic efficacy.
Areas covered: Relevant literature in the field is identified through a Medline search for articles published up to August 2010 with the keywords 'neuropathy', 'anticancer drugs' and 'pain'. This study considers original papers and reviews.
Expert opinion: Neurotoxic anticancer drugs can affect specific peripheral nervous system structures (neuronopathy, axonopathy or myelinopathy) leading to CIPN, often with pain. Gaining deeper insights into neurotoxic mechanisms is critical to the development of new CIPN treatment and prevention strategies.