How Can We Improve Control of Chemo-Induced Nausea and Vomiting?

In a survey supported by POGO, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting was identified as one of the top concerns of parents of children receiving chemotherapy. The antiemetic aprepitant—a relatively new and effective drug used to prevent these distressing side-effects in patients receiving chemotherapy—is only available in capsule format in Canada, so children who cannot swallow capsules cannot benefit from this medicine in its current form.

When a liquid form of a drug is not commercially available, pharmacists often manipulate dosage forms that are made for adults so that children can take those drugs. They do this by breaking up capsules or crushing tablets to make a liquid formula that children can swallow. This is called extemporaneous compounding. Some drugs become unstable as soon as you mix them with a liquid. In other words, they degrade so rapidly that the liquid forms are not useful; others might get absorbed into the bloodstream too quickly or not at all. Ideally when a pharmacist makes an extemporaneous compound, they use a formula or a recipe which has been studied so we know the drug’s stability. Even better is to understand how the extemporaneous liquid formulation is absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream compared to the original tablet or capsule made by the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

In 2016, POGO awarded Dr. Priya Patel, RPh, PharmD, a MSc student with a Clinician Scholar Fellowship for her project: Relative Bioavailability of an Extemporaneous Oral Suspension of Aprepitant in Healthy Adult Volunteers. Priya, her supervisor Dr. Lee Dupuis, and their co-investigators Dr. Paul Nathan, Ms. Sue Zupanec, Ms. Jocelyne Volpe and Mr. Scott Walker, will be studying a liquid form of aprepitant designed for use in pediatric cancer patients to determine how well it is absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream compared to the original capsule. This study will either give the current “recipe” a stamp of approval or help define what needs to be done to ensure that its performance is comparable to what we see in patients who are able to take a capsule format. 

POGO is recognized as a world leader with regards to the topic of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in children. In addition to supporting research studies like Priya’s and creating new evidence around the topic, POGO leads in the development of clinical practice guidelines* to help physicians make informed decisions to optimize control of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting for their pediatric patients. Until recently there were no clinical practice guidelines that focused on children for this purpose.

It’s all about creating new evidence-based information so it can be incorporated into the current practice guidelines and then implementing those guidelines so that children don’t experience nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. We are trying to get better at that.

*Endorsed by the Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. 

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