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HelixTalk #155 - Oncology 911: Tumor Lysis Syndrome as an Oncologic Emergency

Date posted: October 18, 2022, 6:00 am

In this episode, we invite Dr. Amir Ali, PharmD, BCOP to discuss with us the pathophysiology, risk factors, prevention, and treatment clinical pearls of tumor lysis syndrome TLS).


Key Concepts

  1. Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS) is caused by rapid cell death of cancerous cells that results in intracellular contents “spilling” into the blood – this leads to high serum uric acid, high serum potassium, high serum phosphate, and LOW calcium.
  2. These laboratory abnormalities cause acute kidney injury (via crystal formation in the kidney), arrhythmias (from hyperkalemia), and seizures (from high phosphate and low calcium).
  3. Patients at highest risk for TLS are those with hematologic malignancies (lymphomas and leukemias), especially if WBC or LDH labs are very high.
  4. Prevention is the key! The primary prevention approach for TLS is hydration, allopurinol, and sometimes a low dose of rasburicase. The treatment of TLS involves more aggressive hydration and rasburicase.


  • Coiffier B, Altman A, Pui CH, Younes A, Cairo MS. Guidelines for the management of pediatric and adult tumor lysis syndrome: an evidence-based review. J Clin Oncol. 2008;26(16):2767-2778. doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.15.0177
  • Cairo MS, Coiffier B, Reiter A, Younes A; TLS Expert Panel. Recommendations for the evaluation of risk and prophylaxis of tumour lysis syndrome (TLS) in adults and children with malignant diseases: an expert TLS panel consensus. Br J Haematol. 2010;149(4):578-586. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2010.08143.x
  • Jones GL, Will A, Jackson GH, Webb NJ, Rule S; British Committee for Standards in Haematology. Guidelines for the management of tumour lysis syndrome in adults and children with haematological malignancies on behalf of the British Committee for Standards in Haematology. Br J Haematol. 2015;169(5):661-671. doi:10.1111/bjh.13403