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New test helps predict nausea after chemotherapy

Lankenau Medical Center April 19, 2017 Cancer

While chemotherapy can save lives, some of the side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, are difficult to cope with—and can even be debilitating. Yet not all patients experience such effects equally. Now, researchers at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) and Lankenau Medical Center, both part of Main Line Health, have developed a blood test that predicts which patients are most likely to experience nausea after chemotherapy.

“The test can help alert physicians to those patients who need more potent drugs, called antiemetics, to combat nausea,” says Paul Gilman, MD, interim director of clinical research at LIMR and one of the study’s researchers. “If patients are tested before starting chemotherapy, their care team can devise a personalized plan to prevent nausea.”

“Antiemetic drugs have their own side effects, including insomnia, constipation, and headaches,” notes U. Margaretha Wallon, PhD, assistant professor at LIMR and the lead author of the study. “Patients determined to be at lower risk for nausea may be able to skip antiemetics or take a lower dose, sparing them those side effects and potentially reducing their health care costs.”

The results of a small preliminary study of 64 colon and lung cancer patients at Lankenau Medical Center showed that the test could correctly classify almost 90 percent of patients with nausea sensitivity.

The study was funded by the The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust.

“This is, to our knowledge, the first report demonstrating an unbiased method to predict nausea in patients receiving chemotherapy,” the authors wrote.

The researchers are in the process of expanding the study to all Main Line Health facilities.