Chemotherapy: neurologic complications

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By Eudocia Quant MD, Jorg Dietrich MD PhD, and Patrick Y Wen MD

Patients with cancer are living longer due to earlier diagnoses and remarkable improvements in treatments. Unfortunately, neurologic complications from chemotherapy remain a significant cause of morbidity and may play a role in limiting potential treatments. In addition, novel therapies such as small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies have also been associated with neurologic complications. Because treatments for therapy-induced neurotoxicity are limited, awareness of common neurologic complications is important to prevent permanent damage. In this clinical article, Dr. Eudocia Quant and Dr. Patrick Wen of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dr. Jorg Dietrich of Massachusetts General Hospital review common neurologic complications of chemotherapy and novel systemic agents in this clinical article.

Key points

  • Neurologic complications from chemotherapy impact quality of life and remain an important source of dose-limiting toxicity.
  • The neurotoxicities of chemotherapy are widely known, but several targeted agents such as bortezomib and bevacizumab are also associated with neurologic complications.
  • Early recognition and prevention may help avoid permanent neurologic damage.