Life threatening lung injuries may be a complication of modern cancer chemotherapy.
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted a study published in the same issue of the relatively new agent carmustine, showing that all patients receiving this drug may develop lung fibrosis years after taking the drug. The mortality of this disease is more than 50 per cent.Previously, doctors believed that most cases of carmustine induced lung fibrosis surfaced three or four years after therapy, with an average of a year long illness. The new study, however, says the editorial, demonstrates that "lung injury may be a universal side effect of carmustine treatment." Even asymptomatic patients are physically impaired and show tissue evidence of lung injury.
"Additional investigations into the pathologic mechanisms of such progressive lung injury are required for rational treatments to be designed that will lead the patient between the Scylla of recurrent tumour and the Charybdis of fatal pulmonary fibrosis," the report concluded.