Nausea/vomiting (N/V) not related to anti-cancer treatment is common in patients with advanced cancer. The standard approach to management is to define a dominant cause, and treat with an antiemetic selected through pathophysiologic knowledge of emetic pathways. High rates of N/V control have been reported using both etiology-based guideline-driven antiemetic regimens and an empiric approach using single agents in uncontrolled studies. These different approaches had never been formally compared.
This randomized, prospective, open label, dose-escalating study used readily available antiemetics in accordance with etiology-based guidelines or single agent therapy with haloperidol. Participants had a baseline average nausea score of ≥3/10. Response was defined as a ≥ 2/10 point reduction on a numerical rating scale of average nausea score with a final score < 3/10 at 72 h.
Nausea scores and distress from nausea improved over time in the majority of the 185 patients randomized. For those who completed each treatment day, a greater response rate was seen in the guideline arm than the single agent arm at 24 h (49% vs 32%; p = 0.02), but not at 48 or 72 h. Response rates at 72 h in the intention to treat analysis were 49 and 53% respectively, with no significant difference between arms (0·04; 95% CI: -0·11, 0·19; p = 0·59). Over 80% of all participants reported an improved global impression of change. There were few adverse events worse than baseline in either arm.
An etiology-based, guideline-directed approach to antiemetic therapy may offer more rapid benefit, but is no better than single agent treatment with haloperidol at 72 h.
Clinical trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ANZCTRN12610000481077.