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Reversible posterior leucoencephalopathy syndrome associated with anticancer drugs

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Abstract Background: 

Reversible posterior leucoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS) is an underappreciated clinical-radiologic syndrome characterized by reversible cortical dysfunction preferentially involving the occipital lobes in conjunction with imaging findings of reversible subcortical oedema. As RPLS is being increasingly identified within the oncology population in association with cytotoxic chemotherapy and targeted agents, a review of the published work in English was carried out. Methods: 

A MEDLINE search of the published work in English was conducted to identify cases of RPLS in patients more than 16 years of age who were treated with anticancer drugs for documented malignancy. Only cases with adequate documentation regarding demographic and treatment data, cerebral magnetic resonance imaging and outcome were selected. Results: 

We identified 24 patients with RPLS associated with a variety of anticancer drugs, most commonly complicating polychemotherapy and/or bevacizumab-containing regimens. There was a female predominance: 18 females and 6 males (P= 0.023). Women were of premenopausal age and were younger than males: 49.3 ± 16.4 years versus 60.7 ± 6.4 years (P= 0.09). Most patients presented with acute headache (67%), seizures (63%), confusion (54%) or cortical blindness (46%) with mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 168 ± 15 and 98 ± 15 mm Hg, respectively. Findings on magnetic resonance imaging showed hyperintense lesions on T2-weighted images in all patients, which involved the occipital lobes in 75% of patients; all patients experienced clinical and radiologic resolution within days to weeks. No deaths were directly attributed to RPLS. Conclusions: 

Combination and single-agent chemotherapy as well as novel anticancer drugs are associated with RPLS. We found RPLS to be overrepresented in premenopausal woman; the prevalence in this subgroup may be related to an anticancer drug–oestrogen interaction inducing altered cerebral vasoreactivity and endothelial dysfunction.

Keywords: bevacizumab; chemotherapy; female; hypertension; oestrogen; reversible posterior leucoencephalopathy

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2009


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