Posted on April 28th, 2009 by
Generic Name: cytarabine (sigh-TARE-a-been), Ara-C, Arabinosylcytosine
Trade Name: Cytosar-U®
For which conditions is this drug approved? Cytarabine is indicated in combination with other anticancer drugs for the treatment of acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and the blast phase of chronic myelocytic leukemia. It is also indicated for intrathecal administration in the prevention and treatment of meningeal leukemia.
What is the mechanism of action? Cytarabine belongs to a group of drugs called antimetabolites. Cytarabine produces its anti-cancer effects by inhibiting the ability of a cell to produce DNA or repair DNA. By inhibiting the production and repair of DNA, cytarabine suppresses the ability of a cell to replicate or repair itself, ultimately causing cellular death.
How is cytarabine typically given (administered)? Cytarabine may be administered intravenously (into a vein), subcutaneously (injection under the skin), intramuscularly (injection into a muscle), or intrathecally (into the spinal fluid). Cytarabine also comes in a long-acting form (DepoCyt™) that may be placed under the skin in a reservoir, with a catheter leading to the brain. The route, dose and scheduling in which cytarabine is administered is dependent upon many factors, including the condition being treated, the particular treatment regimen being utilized, the patient’s height and weight, overall health, and the patient’s tolerance of therapy.
How are patients typically monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while they are being treated with cytarabine. Typically, blood may be drawn to check levels of blood cells and to monitor functions of some organ systems, such as the kidneys or liver. Physical examinations, scans, or other measures may also be utilized to assess side effects and response to therapy.
In addition, some patients are susceptible to developing a condition called tumor lysis syndrome, in which electrolyte and metabolic disturbances occur. Tumor lysis syndrome can be prevented if managed aggressively at the beginning of treatment. Blood tests will measures levels of electrolyte and metabolic products, and patients should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, clouding of urine, lethargy and/or joint discomfort.
What are the common (occur in 30% or more of patients) side effects of treatment with cytarabine?
What are the less common (occur in 10% to 29% of patients) side effects of treatment with cytarabine?
This is not a complete list of side effects. Some patients may experience other side effects that are not listed here. Patients may wish to discuss with their physician the other less common side effects of this drug, some of which may be serious.
Some side effects may require medical attention. Other side effects do not require medical attention and may go away during treatment. Patients should check with their physician about any side effects that continue or are bothersome.
What can patients do to help alleviate or prevent discomfort and side effects?
Are there any special precautions patients should be aware of before starting treatment?
When should patients notify their physician?
What is a package insert?
A package insert is required by the FDA and contains a summary of the essential scientific information needed for the safe and effective use of the drug for healthcare providers and consumers. A package insert typically includes information regarding specific indications, administration schedules, dosing, side effects, contraindications, results from some clinical trials, chemical structure, pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the specific drug. By carefully reviewing the package insert, you will get the most complete and current information about how to safely use this drug. If you do not have the package insert for the drug you are using, your pharmacist or physician may be able to provide you with a copy.
Last updated on 09/16.
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