Nurse giving a woman chemotherapy

Drugs Bring Unprecedented Improvements to Patients' Quality of Life

For decades, cancer treatment was notorious for long hospital stays and severe side effects – some of which were life-threatening and forced patients to cut their treatment short. But a dramatic shift occurred in the early 1990s, starting with the arrival of anti-nausea drugs and other supportive care treatments that aimed to ease these symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.

Among the first of these new drugs was ondansetron (Zofran). Approved in 1991, one study showed this treatment cut vomiting episodes by 70 percent or more among patients who had just undergone cisplatin chemotherapy.1

Since then, many more supportive care strategies have become available, helping patients with cancer live longer and better. Today, most patients undergo treatment in outpatient settings – a dramatic shift from the hospital stays of the past – allowing many to continue working and other normal activities. Along with anti-nausea drugs, supportive care today involves effective treatment of other side effects like anemia and severe dry mouth, improved pain relief, and psychosocial support to improve the mental well-being of patients and their caregivers.

Voter Comments

“[Antiemetics] permit millions of patients to receive full cancer regimens, delivered in a timely fashion…many even continue to work and lead high functioning lives during treatment.”

“I would not have been able to tolerate my treatments over the years without them.”

“Within one month, there was a dramatic shift in the care of patients on chemotherapy from the inpatient setting to the outpatient setting. These drugs also allowed some patients to have chemotherapy delivered much closer to their homes, especially in rural areas. One of the biggest changes in the day-to-day practice of oncology occurred as a result of these potent new anti-emetics.”

“The most dreaded fear in chemotherapy is nausea. And these drugs revolutionized treatment from inpatient to outpatient settings.”


  1. Cubeddu LX, Hoffmann IS, Fuenmayor NT, et al. Efficacy of Ondansetron (Gr 38032F) and the Role of Serotonin in Cisplatin-Induced Nausea and Vomiting. N Engl J Med. 1990;322:810-816.

Additional Resources

Top Five - #5
Powerful Anti-Nausea Drugs Alleviate Major Side Effect of Cancer Treatment, 1991; Dr. Patricia A. Ganz