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FDA-approved drug alleviates nausea and vomiting symptoms from chemotherapy

Researchers hope the discovery will improve quality of life for cancer patients

Photo (c) tawesit - Fotolia
Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy treatments make many sacrifices for the sake of their health. In addition to the aesthetic changes, like loss of hair, feelings of nausea and sickness will naturally occur because of the chemicals being introduced into their bodies.

However, a discovery made by researchers at Sanford Health may make it possible to block feelings of nausea and vomiting, giving patients a boost to their quality of life.

“We’ve long known the nausea and vomiting that come along with chemotherapy are a major problem and affect the quality of life of our patients. The findings of this study, fortunately, provide physicians with a tool to better address the needs of those they are treating for cancer,” said Dr. Steven Powell.

Effective first trial

The drug that was tested, called olanzapine, is an FDA-approved medication that has traditionally been used to treat antipsychotic symptoms. However, researchers found that it was also useful for blocking neurotransmitters in the body related to nausea and vomiting.

After discovering this function, Powell and his colleagues tested the drug’s effectiveness on participants undergoing chemotherapy. After the first day of treatment, they observed that 74% of all patients who paired olanzapine with their chemotherapy experienced no feelings of nausea or vomiting.

This contrasted greatly with a control group who took a placebo – only 45% of participants in this group experienced no feelings of nausea or vomiting. Researchers continued to test the drug over the course of five days, with many participants continuing to reap the same benefits.

Further testing of the drug will be required before it can be adopted for all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, but these initial results point to positive progress. The full study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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