Late respiratory effects of cancer treatment

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Purpose of review

The aim of this article is to examine significant advances in our understanding of the late respiratory effects of cancer treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, biological therapies and haematopoietic stem cell transplant, and to provide a framework for assessing such patients.

Recent findings

Oncology therapies have advanced considerably over recent years but pulmonary toxicity remains a concern. Advances have been made in our understanding of the risk factors, including genetic ones that lead to toxicity from radiotherapy and chemotherapy and risk stratification models are being developed to aid treatment planning. Targeted biological treatments are continuously being developed and consequently the Pneumotox database of pulmonary toxicity continues to be an essential resource. Early detection of bronchiolitis obliterans in haematopoietic stem cell transplant patients has been found to be critical, with some positive results from intervention trials.


Pulmonary toxicity is a common unwanted consequence of life enhancing or saving cancer treatments which remain difficult to treat. Developments in these fields are mainly in the areas of prevention, early detection and monitoring of unwanted side effects. We discuss some of these developments within this review.

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