Health Questions and Answers

Question: What is tumor lysis syndrome?


When rapidly growing tumors are effectively treated with chemotherapy, breakdown products of tumor lysis are released into the bloodstream in large amounts. This process may cause hyperkalemia, hyperuricemia, hyperphosphatemia, and hypocalcemia. Renal failure can result from the hyperuricemia. This complication is seen within hours to days after treatment of tumors such as acute leukemia, Burkitt’s lymphoma, and other rapidly proliferating lymphomas. It is rarely, if ever, seen with solid tumors, but has been described in small cell carcinoma of the lung.

Reference:  Casciato DA, Lowitz BB (eds): Manual of Clinical Oncology, 5th ed. Boston, Little, Brown, 2000.

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