Hypersensitivity reactions to chemotherapeutic agents can cause the discontinuation of first-line therapies. Chemotherapy desensitization is a safe, but labor-intensive, process to administer these important medications. A desensitization protocol can enable a patient to receive the entire target dose of a medication, even if the patient has a history of severe infusion reactions. In this article, the authors explain the pathophysiology of hypersensitivity reactions and describe the recent development of desensitization protocols in oncology. In part II of this article, which will appear in the April 2016 issue of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, the authors will give a detailed account of how a desensitization protocol is performed at an academic medical center.