Improved Side Effect Management May Help Cancer Patients Remain on Therapy

Undertreated side effects in treatment of some colon and stomach cancers need to be addressed.

Undertreated side effects in treatment of some colon and stomach cancers need to be addressed.

In addition to the difficulty patients with cancer face when fighting the disease, remaining on treatments that come with debilitating side effects remains a significant challenge.

In a study published recently in the Annals of Oncology, researchers from Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care indicated that side effects from regorafenib (Stivarga), such as redness and swelling, may be undertreated.

The study noted that recommendations from oncologists and dermatologists for supportive measures that help prevent or reduce Hand-Foot-Skin-Reaction (HFSR) symptoms may help patients to remain on regorafenib at an optimal dose. Nearly two-thirds of the 40,000 patients administered the treatment for certain colorectal cancers and inoperable stomach cancers experience these symptoms, according to the study.

The drug is typically prescribed to patients whose cancer has stopped responding to chemotherapy. HSFR is characterized by painful red swelling of the hands and feet, however, these symptoms can be effectively managed without altering cancer therapy.

"Our review revealed a lack of articles about managing regorafenib-related HFSR, which was surprising given the frequency of this condition," said lead author Beth McLellan, MD, in a press release. "The goal of these recommendations is to highlight interdisciplinary practices healthcare providers can use to help recognize and manage this debilitating side effect so patients can more comfortably adhere to life-saving or prolonging treatments."

The researchers subsequently urge patients to consider activities that may stress the hands and feet, such as heavy lifting or long walks, specifically during the first month of treatment, to decrease the risk of blistering.

"There are so many side effects from chemotherapy that patients are warned about," Dr. McLellan said. "Often patients are surprised by the severity and discomfort of side effects in the skin such as HFSR and they may not realize there are treatment options available. Our goal is to encourage patients to express concerns about these side effects as we can often help to improve symptom management and decrease discomfort."