Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) is associated with a significant deterioration in quality of life. The emetogenicity of the chemotherapeutic agents, repeated chemotherapy cycles and patient risk factors (female gender, younger age, alcohol consumption, history of motion sickness) are the major risk factors for CINV. The use of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)3 receptor antagonists plus dexamethasone has significantly improved the control of acute CINV, but delayed nausea and vomiting remains a clinical problem. A new agent, palonosetron, has recently been approved for the prevention of acute CINV in patients receiving either moderately or highly emetogenic chemotherapy and for the prevention of delayed CINV in patients receiving moderately emetogenic chemotherapy. Palonosetron is a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist with a longer half-life and a higher binding affinity than first-generation 5-HT3 receptor antagonists. In a single dosing study, palonosetron was highly effective in controlling CINV compared with a single dose of dolasetron or ondansetron in patients receiving moderately emetogenic chemotherapy. Palonosetron in combination with dexamethasone demonstrated control of CINV in patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy. Palonosetron appeared to be as effective in subsequent courses of chemotherapy compared with the initial course of chemotherapy. There were no clinically relevant differences seen among palonosetron, ondansetron or dolasetron in laboratory, electrocardiographic or vital-sign changes, and adverse reactions reported in the clinical trials were the most common reactions reported for the 5-HT3 receptor antagonist class. Recent studies using palonosetron-based anti-emetic combinations in moderately and highly emetogenic chemotherapy, as well as in the clinical setting of multiple-day chemotherapy, have been reported. Future studies may consider the use of palonosetron with current and other new agents and in other clinical settings, such as bone marrow transplantation and radiation therapy. © 2006 Future Medicine Ltd.