Appropriate Chemotherapy Dosing for Obese Adult Patients With Cancer: ASCO Practice Guideline

Published in Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 30, Issue 13 (May), 2012: 1553-1561
Jennifer J. Griggs, Pamela B. Mangu, Holly Anderson, Edward P. Balaban, James J. Dignam, William M. Hryniuk, Vicki A. Morrison, T. May Pini, Carolyn D. Runowicz, Gary L. Rosner, Michelle Shayne, Alex Sparreboom, Lara E. Sucheston, and Gary H. Lyman


To provide recommendations for appropriate cytotoxic chemotherapy dosing for obese adult patients with cancer.


The American Society of Clinical Oncology convened a Panel of experts in medical and gynecologic oncology, clinical pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics, and biostatistics and a patient representative. MEDLINE searches identified studies published in English between 1996 and 2010, and a systematic review of the literature was conducted. A majority of studies involved breast, ovarian, colon, and lung cancers. This guideline does not address dosing for novel targeted agents.


Practice pattern studies demonstrate that up to 40% of obese patients receive limited chemotherapy doses that are not based on actual body weight. Concerns about toxicity or overdosing in obese patients with cancer, based on the use of actual body weight, are unfounded.


The Panel recommends that full weight–based cytotoxic chemotherapy doses be used to treat obese patients with cancer, particularly when the goal of treatment is cure. There is no evidence that short or long-term toxicity is increased among obese patients receiving full weight–based doses. Most data indicate that myelosuppression is the same or less pronounced among the obese than the non-obese who are administered full weight–based doses. Clinicians should respond to all treatment-related toxicities in obese patients in the same ways they do for non-obese patients. The use of fixed-dose chemotherapy is rarely justified, but the Panel does recommend fixed dosing for a few select agents. The Panel recommends further research into the role of pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics to guide appropriate dosing of obese patients with cancer.

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The clinical practice guidelines and other guidance published herein are provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. ("ASCO") to assist practitioners in clinical decision making. The information therein should not be relied upon as being complete or accurate, nor should it be considered as inclusive of all proper treatments or methods of care or as a statement of the standard of care. With the rapid development of scientific knowledge, new evidence may emerge between the time information is developed and when it is published or read. The information is not continually updated and may not reflect the most recent evidence. The information addresses only the topics specifically identified therein and is not applicable to other interventions, diseases, or stages of diseases. This information does not mandate any particular course of medical care. Further, the information is not intended to substitute for the independent professional judgment of the treating physician, as the information does not account for individual variation among patients. Recommendations reflect high, moderate or low confidence that the recommendation reflects the net effect of a given course of action. The use of words like "must," "must not," "should," and "should not" indicate that a course of action is recommended or not recommended for either most or many patients, but there is latitude for the treating physician to select other courses of action in individual cases. In all cases, the selected course of action should be considered by the treating physician in the context of treating the individual patient. Use of the information is voluntary. ASCO provides this information on an "as is" basis, and makes no warranty, express or implied, regarding the information. ASCO specifically disclaims any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular use or purpose. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of this information or for any errors or omissions.