The Cancer Chemotherapy Handbook (6th edition)


DS Fischer et al
Published by Mosby (2003)
Distributed in Australia by Elsevier.
ISBN:  0-3230-1890-4.  519 pages plus index.
RRP:  A$97.90

This is the 6th edition of a chemotherapy handbook that started life in 1979 as an in-house handbook for fellows and nurses at Yale New Haven Hospital, USA.

Although designed for oncology professionals in the US, the use of generic drug names throughout, as well as American tradenames, makes it suitable for Australian users. This compact handbook is truly pocket-sized; yet it is packed with information not always included in this type of book. Traditional drug monographs, listed in alphabetical order, fill about half its pages and include cytotoxic and associated drugs that are commercially available in the US as well as many investigational agents. Individual monographs are not referenced, but many have one or more references listed under selected reading at the end of the monograph.  There is a similar section on biotherapies which has a short overview of this topic followed by alphabetical listing of the individual products.  A comprehensive chapter on cancer chemotherapy and biotherapy lists in alphabetical order the different cancer types. For each type there is a paragraph about the disease state and a number of protocols that have been used for treatment. These are from published research articles in the main, with a few from abstracts only (the limitations of using abstracts as a treatment resource are acknowledged). Selected reading references are also provided.  In the introductory pages of this chapter the authors explain this section is a quick reference for those who use combination chemotherapy, not a “cookbook” for the inexperienced.

In addition there is a range of chapters on other topics related to cancer and its treatment. These start with standard chapters such as basic pharmacology including drug interactions, and administration of chemotherapy including dosing, administration methods and devices, complications of administration, and occupational exposure issues.  Further chapters cover assessing and managing organ toxicity, managing cancer pain, and high dose chemotherapy with stem cell support. The very topical area of medication safety with chemotherapy is covered for the first time in this edition of the handbook. Other interesting chapters include principles and applications of clinical trials, and ethical considerations in cancer patients.

I am often asked what textbooks I recommend, and find it difficult to answer, as they can become dated quite quickly. However, I think oncology nurses, pharmacists and medical trainees would find this small, relatively inexpensive handbook a useful information resource.  In this era of portable computer technology it would be great if it were available in a downloadable form to a personal digital assistant such as a Palm or Pocket PC.

J Lees
Dept of Oncology/Haematology
Royal Adelaide Hospital
Adelaide, SA

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