Chemo and Kidneys

Cancer has become an everyday word around here. While I have no personal acquaintance with cancer, too many friends and readers do. That got me to thinking. If you had chronic kidney disease and cancer, how would your already poorly functioning kidneys react to the chemotherapy?

We do need to start with some basics here. First, what is chemotherapy? According to the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy/how-chemotherapy-drugs-work.html:

“More than 100 chemotherapy or chemo drugs are used to treat cancer – either alone or in combination with other drugs or treatments. These drugs are very different in their chemical composition, how they are taken, their usefulness in treating specific forms of cancer, and their side effects.

Chemotherapy works with the cell cycle

Chemotherapy drugs target cells at different phases of the process of forming new cells, called the cell cycle. Understanding how these drugs work helps doctors predict which drugs are likely to work well together. Doctors can also plan how often doses of each drug should be given based on the timing of the cell phases.

Cancer cells tend to form new cells more quickly than normal cells and this makes them a better target for chemotherapy drugs. However, chemo drugs can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. This means normal cells are damaged along with the cancer cells, and this causes side effects. Each time chemo is given, it means trying to find a balance between killing the cancer cells (in order to cure or control the disease) and sparing the normal cells (to lessen side effects).”

Uh-oh, “normal cells are damaged along with the cancer cells.” Let’s see if we can get a bit more specific here and find out what happens to kidney cells. The Canadian Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/chemotherapy-and-other-drug-therapies/chemotherapy/side-effects-of-chemotherapy/kidney-damage-and-chemotherapy/?region=on#ixzz51dnKcgtI offers the following information:

“Some chemotherapy drugs can damage the kidneys (nephrotoxicity). The kidneys break down and remove many chemotherapy drugs from the body. When chemotherapy drugs break down, they make products that can damage cells in the kidneys, ureters and bladder. The potential for kidney damage varies with the type of chemotherapy drug used.

Causes

Chemotherapy drugs that can cause kidney damage include:
• cisplatin (Platinol AQ)
• carboplatin (Paraplatin)
• nitrosureas, such as carmustine (BiCNU, BCNU)
• mitomycin (Mutamycin)
• methotrexate – especially if high doses are used

Whether or not a chemotherapy drug will cause kidney damage depends on:
• the dose of the drug used
• if other drugs, which also have the potential to damage the kidney, are used at the same time
• if the person already has kidney disease”

Look at the last item on the list. That’s us; we already have kidney disease. Cancer.Net at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/older-adults/when-cancer-not-your-only-health-concern gives us just a bit more information about chemotherapy when you already have CKD. They also mention diabetes which is one of the leading causes of CKD.

“Diabetes. If you have diabetes, you need to monitor your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels closely during cancer treatment. Some chemotherapy and medications used to lower side effects (such as steroids) can raise your blood sugar levels. These levels might also go up because you are less physically active or under stress. Side effects like nausea and vomiting also affect your blood sugar.

Your doctor might also recommend:
• Taking low-sugar food supplements
• Taking different anti-nausea medications
• Using fast-acting insulin at times during cancer treatment
• Keeping a record of your blood sugar levels. You and your doctor can look at them during clinic visits. Controlling your blood sugar will help make sure you can stay on your cancer treatment schedule.

Kidney disease. Your kidneys might not work as well as you get older. So adults over 65 might have more problems with some types of chemotherapy. The drugs can be difficult for your kidneys to handle. This can raise your risk of kidney problems. How well your kidneys work might determine the type of chemotherapy you can have, or how often you have it.

If you are on dialysis, talk with your oncologist. Dialysis cleans your blood when your kidneys do not work well enough to do it. But dialysis may also clean the chemotherapy drugs out of your body before they can work.”

This does address older adults which is why I believe they mention age as a CKD risk factor. We know that’s not the only risk factor.

But there is hope. Take a look at what appeared in NDT (the respected European Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation Journal). It’s a bit a technical, but you can read more of the study at https://academic.oup.com/ndt/article/30/12/1979/2459906:

“One of the important drug-related problems in patients with renal impairment is inappropriate medication use and dosing errors…. Along this line, many cytotoxic drugs and their active/toxic metabolites are eliminated through the kidney depending on how much of the substance undergoes renal filtration, tubular secretion and/or tubular reabsorption. Hence, patients with both acute kidney injury (AKI) and CKD receiving chemotherapeutic agents often possess alterations in their pharmacokinetic parameters such as drug absorption, distribution, protein binding, biotransformation and renal excretion, which may result in the accumulation of potentially toxic components and over-dosage …. Therefore, clinicians must be wary to appropriately adjust doses of drugs that are excreted primarily by the kidneys. This requires dosing according to the calculated or measured creatinine clearance or eGFR formulas, which will allow the safe use of chemotherapy in patients with underlying kidney disease.”

Interesting to me is readers and friends’ reactions to chemo. Some have none, other than high energy for a day or two after their treatment. Others are nauseous and depleted of energy. It depends on your unique body chemistry and the ingredients in your chemo cocktail (for lack of a better term).

You can probably add quite a bit more – and I wish you would – since I am limited by a word count. Readers with kidney cancer, will you weigh in? And those who have both CKD and chemo, would you, too?

Brag time! After being included in Healthline’s Top Six Kidney Disease Blogs two years in a row, this year SlowItDownCKD has been awarded a place on BlogFeedSpot’s Top 75 Nephrology Blogs GLOBALLY. You know that expression the British readers use – gob smacked? That’s me!

I hope your Chanukah has been a mass of sweet, fried celebrations. See you on Christmas.

Oh, there’s still time to win a copy of the newly published SlowItDownCKD 2011 in the Chanukah Book Giveaway Contest. If you haven’t won a book this year, all you have to do is be the first person to correctly answer: What percentage of people with CKD are aware they have the disease?

Until next week,
Keep living your life!