Drug Desensitization in the Management of Hypersensitivity Reactions to Monoclonal Antibodies and Chemotherapy
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- Mezzano, V., Giavina-Bianchi, P., Picard, M. et al. BioDrugs (2014) 28: 133. doi:10.1007/s40259-013-0066-x
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Hypersensitivity reactions to monoclonal antibodies and chemotherapy, which may vary in severity from mild to life-threatening, can lead to their discontinuation and replacement by alternative agents that are often less effective, more toxic, and/or more expensive. Drug desensitization has emerged as the best treatment modality capable of allowing re-introduction of the hypersensitivity reaction-inducing medication in highly sensitized patients in need of first line therapies. In recent years, the availability of new anti-neoplastic drugs and therapeutic monoclonal antibodies has increased, as has the potential for hypersensitivity reactions. Development of desensitization protocols for these new medications requires a careful assessment of the potential risks and benefits. The purposes of this review are to provide an overview of the presentation of hypersensitivity reactions amenable to desensitization and to increase awareness of the indications for and outcomes of desensitization protocols. Rapid drug desensitization has proven to be a safe and effective way of administering first line therapy to patients with hypersensitivity reactions, providing an extremely powerful treatment modality for patients for whom alternative drugs are deemed unacceptable. Rapid drug desensitization protocols should be administered only by highly trained allergists and nurses who have experience in determining which reactions are amenable to desensitization, and can identify high risk patients and provide them with appropriate care. Efforts should be made to increase awareness of the remarkable safety and efficacy of rapid drug desensitization among non-allergists, especially in the fields of oncology and rheumatology, so as to favor its universal application. Development of desensitization units to provide state-of-the-art care is possible only through coordinated teamwork.