Vol 14, No 1 (2020)
Review paper
Published online: 2020-05-08

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Pruritus in Cancer. Current Understanding and Treatment

Zbigniew Zylicz1
Palliat Med Pract 2020;14(1):16-21.


Pruritus in cancer is rare and heterogenous. In the past two decades our understanding of pruritus has
dramatically increased and new therapies have emerged. New strategies and drugs are being introduced
or are expected soon. An important concept concerning mechanism of pruritus in cancer is neuroinflammation,
also in the periphery as well as in the spinal cord and brain, where Toll-like receptors on the
surfaces of microglia and many other macrophages play a key role. These receptors are influenced by
many existing drugs like opioids and opioid antagonists, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and probably few
others. Another strategy is disruption of signal transmission in the skin, spinal cord, and brain by the NK1
antagonists aprepitant, serlopitant, gabapentin, and pregabalin. None of the types of pruritus responds
to antihistamines, and these drugs should be avoided.

Palliat Med Pract 2020; 14, 1: 16–21

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