Aprepitant for management of severe pruritus related to biological cancer treatments: A pilot study

Daniele Santini, Bruno Vincenzi, Francesco M. Guida, Marco Imperatori, Gaia Schiavon, Olga Venditti, Anna M. Frezza, Pierpaolo Berti, Giuseppe Tonini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Itch is a common side-effect of treatment with anti-EGFR antibodies and tyrosine-kinase inhibitors. We designed a pilot single-centre study to assess the effects of aprepitant-a neurokinin receptor inhibitor-for management of severe pruritus induced by biological drugs. Methods: In this single-group, prospective study, we consecutively enrolled 45 outpatients with metastatic solid tumours treated with biological drugs at the Campus Bio-Medico Hospital of Rome, Rome, Italy, between September, 2010, and November, 2011. We classified patients into two groups: a refactory group, for patients with pruritis refractory to standard treatment, or a naive group, for patients who had not been previously treated for pruritis. Aprepitant (125 mg on day 1; 80 mg on day 3; 80 mg on day 5) was given to patients in the refractory group after at least 1 week of standard systemic treatment. In the naive group, aprepitant was given in the same schedule as the refractory group, after first onset of severe pruritus. Intensity of itch was evaluated by Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) score. The primary endpoint was change in median VAS score. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01683552. Findings: Median VAS in the refractory group was 8·00 (95% CI 7·93-8·57) at baseline and 1·00 (0·00-2·00) after 1 week of treatment with aprepitant (p50% reduction in intensity of pruritis) and pruritus recurred in only six (13%) patients. No adverse events related to aprepitant occurred. Interpretation: Aprepitant decreases severe pruritus induced by biological treatments; it is an old drug, widely available, and therefore easy to add to the armamentarium of supportive treatment. Although to our knowledge no other studies of the anti-itch activity of aprepitant are planned, the results of our trial warrant confirmation in phase 2 and 3 trials. Funding: None.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1024
Number of pages5
JournalThe Lancet Oncology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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