• antiemetic;
  • 5-hydroxytryptamine type-3 receptor antagonist;
  • dose;
  • cancer;
  • efficacy



Nausea and emesis as a consequence of chemotherapy or radiotherapy can have an adverse effect on patients' quality of life during cancer treatment and may last for > 5 days after administration. Guidelines suggest that, used at appropriate doses, the 5-hydroxytryptamine type-3 (5-HT3) receptor antagonists—which are considered the antiemetic “gold standard” when they are administered in combination with corticosteroids—demonstrate equivalent efficacy and safety. However, due to financial considerations, these agents often are used at lower doses than recommended.


A literature review of relevant publications pertaining to the control of chemotherapy-induced nausea and emesis and dosing issues of the 5-HT3 receptor antagonists was undertaken to provide a comprehensive review of dosing issues relevant to the 5-HT3 receptor antagonists.


The issue of “down dosing” was particularly pertinent because of the nature of the 5-HT3 receptor antagonist dose-response curve: A steep dose-response profile within a narrow dose range suggests that antiemetic control will be lost suddenly after dose deescalation. However, the array of predisposing and confounding patient factors indicates that it is unlikely that a loss of antiemetic control will be apparent across a population; rather, individuals will experience loss of control as the dose is reduced below threshold. Of the 4 5-HT3 receptor antagonists currently licensed in the United States (granisetron, ondansetron, dolasetron, and palonosetron), ondansetron is used sometimes at lower than optimal doses, and there is evidence to suggest that even the approved oral dose of dolasetron may be suboptimal.


Suboptimal dosing not only will be detrimental to patients' quality of life but, ultimately, will prove counterproductive in terms of hospital resources, and it will add to the already significant socioeconomic burden associated with cancer therapy. Therefore, the dose of antiemetic agent administered should be sufficiently high to ensure good emesis control across the whole patient population. Cancer 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.