Drug Safety

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 103–113 | Cite as

Interstitial Lung Disease in Lung Cancer

Separating Disease Progression from Treatment Effects
  • Sarah Danson
  • Fiona Blackhall
  • Paul Hulse
  • Malcolm Ranson
Leading Article


Lung cancer often develops in individuals with pre-existing pulmonary and cardiac pathology. Many of these individuals with pre-existing pathology are also at risk of occupational lung disease. New and worsening symptoms can be secondary to pre-existing pathology, progressive cancer or treatment. Pulmonary toxicity, including interstitial lung disease, following radiotherapy and conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy (e.g. cyclophosphamide, bleomycin), has been recognised for many years. Pulmonary toxicity also occurs with the newer classes of cytotoxic agents, including the deoxycytidine analogue gemcitabine. A small percentage (0.88%) of patients treated with the epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib have developed interstitial lung disease. This complication has been reported at a higher frequency in Japanese patients than in US patients (1.9% vs 0.34%, respectively) and in those with pre-existing pulmonary fibrosis. This review discusses the difficulties in both recognition and treatment of gefitinib-associated interstitial lung disease. Symptoms are vague, such as dyspnoea, cough and fever and can be difficult to differentiate from progressive disease, co-existing morbidity and new pulmonary pathology. Diagnosis is, therefore, by rigorous investigation to exclude all other differential diagnoses. Treatment, at present, is supportive and includes discontinuation of gefitinib, oxygen supplementation, high-dose corticosteroids and antibacterials.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Danson
    • 1
  • Fiona Blackhall
    • 1
  • Paul Hulse
    • 2
  • Malcolm Ranson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical OncologyChristie Hospital NHS TrustWithingtonUK
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyChristie Hospital NHS TrustWithingtonUK

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