Efficacy of venlafaxine for the prevention and relief of oxaliplatin-induced acute neurotoxicity: results of EFFOX, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III trial

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Background: Oxaliplatin neurosensory toxicity is dose limiting and may present as acute symptoms and/or cumulative peripheral neuropathy.

Patients and methods: From October 2005 to May 2008, patients with oxaliplatin-induced acute neurotoxicity were randomized into a double-blind study, to receive either venlafaxine 50 mg 1 h prior oxaliplatin infusion and venlafaxine extended release 37.5 mg b.i.d. from day 2 to day 11 or placebo. Neurotoxicity was evaluated using numeric rating scale (NRS) for pain intensity and experienced relief under treatment, the Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory and the oxaliplatin-specific neurotoxicity scale. The primary end point was the percentage of patients with a 100% relief under treatment.

Results: Forty-eight patients were included (27 males, median age: 67.6 years). Most patients had colorectal cancer (72.9%). Median number of cycles administered at inclusion was 4.5 (mean cumulative oxaliplatin dose: 684.6 mg). Twenty out of 24 patients in arm A (venlafaxine) and 22 out of 24 patients in arm B (placebo) were assessable for neurotoxicity. Based on the NRS, full relief was more frequent in the venlafaxine arm: 31.3% versus 5.3% (P = 0.03). Venlafaxine side-effects included grade 1–2 nausea (43.1%) and asthenia (39.2%) without grade 3–4 events.

Conclusion: Venlafaxine has clinical activity against oxaliplatin-induced acute neurosensory toxicity.

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