Cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a focus on olanzapine

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Purpose of the review

The purpose of review is to critically present the evidence supporting the use of olanzapine, an atypical antipsychotic, as an antiemetic for cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV).

Recent findings

Two phase III clinical studies demonstrated superior efficacy of olanzapine in comparison with the neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists (NK1RA) for substance P (aprepitant, fosaprepitant) in the prevention of nausea after highly emetogenic chemotherapy. Olanzapine is inexpensive and the replacement of NK1RA with olanzapine can reduce the costs of the prevention of CINV. The addition of olanzapine to aprepitant-containing combination regimens for the prevention of CINV was also investigated, and has the potential to further improve the prevention of CINV after highly emetogenic chemotherapy or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy, without substantial increase in costs. In the treatment of uncontrolled (’breakthrough’) CINV, olanzapine was more effective than metoclopramide. Existing clinical data also support the use of olanzapine to relieve a cluster of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with advanced cancer (chronic nausea, vomiting, and anorexia). When used in cancer patients, olanzapine is well tolerated, with sedation being the major dose-limiting side effect.


Existing data from clinical trials justify further research of the role of olanzapine in the prevention of CINV. Olanzapine may be used instead of or in addition to NK1RA in the preventive antiemetic regimens. Olanzapine-containing preventive regimens may provide better nausea control after chemotherapy. When used instead of NK1RA it may also provide substantial reduction in costs of CINV prevention. In patients with advanced cancer, olanzapine was effective against a cluster of gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, and anorexia). The use of olanzapine as an antiemetic for CINV, or to relieve nausea, vomiting, and anorexia in palliative care is currently off-label.

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