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Gemcitabine is the only approved cytotoxic agent for the treatment of pancreatic cancer by the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, gemcitabine is also commonly used for the management of breast, ovarian, and non-small cell lung cancer. Myelosuppression is the most common toxicity of gemcitabine therapy. Pulmonary toxicities due to gemcitabine have, however, been reported. Dyspnea occurs in approximately 25% of patients treated with gemcitabine, whereas serious pulmonary toxicities are much less common, approximately 0.3%. Here, we present a case of gemcitabine-induced pneumonitis, encountered during treatment of pancreatic cancer, and review the literature of this rare, but dangerous complication. Case Report: A 56-year old male being treated for stage IV pancreatic cancer developed progressive dyspnea on exertion, chest tightness, and palpitations. Oxygen saturation was 82-84%. Computerized-tomography (CT) angiography of the chest demonstrated new diffuse groundglass opacities in the bilateral lower lobes when compared to the CT of the chest without intravenous contrast, 5 weeks prior. Mild to moderate emphysema was also seen, but no pulmonary emboli were detected. Myocardial infraction was ruled-out by normal electrocardiogram and normal cardiac biomarkers. We report another case of gemcitabine-induced pneumonitis. Physicians seeing such patients should be aware of this rare but real pulmonary toxicity. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to potentially fatal outcomes.


Dow-Chung Chi, Frances Brogan, Ithamar Turenne, Sarah Zelonis, Lawrence Schwartz, Muhammad Wasif Saif. Gemcitabine-induced pulmonary toxicity. Anticancer research. 2012 Sep;32(9):4147-9

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PMID: 22993376

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