Corneal nerve changes following treatment with neurotoxic anticancer drugs

Jeremy Chung Bo Chiang, David Goldstein, Susanna B Park, Arun V Krishnan, Maria Markoulli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Survival rates of cancer has improved with the development of anticancer drugs including systemic chemotherapeutic agents. However, long-lasting side effects could impact treated patients. Neurotoxic anticancer drugs are specific agents which cause chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a debilitating condition that severely deteriorates quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. The ocular surface is also prone to neurotoxicity but investigation into the effects of neurotoxic chemotherapy on the ocular surface has been more limited compared to other systemic etiologies such as diabetes. There is also no standardized protocol for CIPN diagnosis with an absence of a reliable, objective method of observing nerve damage structurally. As the cornea is the most densely innervated region of the body, researchers have started to focus on corneal neuropathic changes that are associated with neurotoxic chemotherapy treatment. In-vivo corneal confocal microscopy enables rapid and objective structural imaging of ocular surface microscopic structures such as corneal nerves, while esthesiometers provide means of functional assessment by examining corneal sensitivity. The current article explores the current guidelines and gaps in our knowledge of CIPN diagnosis and the potential role of in-vivo corneal confocal microscopy as a diagnostic or prognostic tool. Corneal neuropathic changes with neurotoxic anticancer drugs from animal research progressing through to human clinical studies are also discussed, with a focus on how these data inform our understanding of CIPN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-237
Number of pages17
JournalThe ocular surface
Early online date16 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents/adverse effects
  • Cornea
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life


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