Posted on April 28th, 2009 by
Generic Name: asparaginase (a-SPARE-a-ji-naze), l-asparaginase, erwinia l-asparaginase
Trade Name: Elspar®, Kidrolase®
For which conditions is this drug approved? Asparaginase is FDA approved for the treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia. It is recommended that asparaginase be used in conjunction with other agents, if not contraindicated in patients, in a regimen for the induction of remission, not as maintenance therapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia.
What is the mechanism of action? Asparaginase is an enzyme. Asparaginase produces its anti-cancer effects by “breaking down” asparagine, a substance normally found in the body that is involved in biological processes that are essential for cells to maintain life. Healthy cells are able to create asparagine for themselves; however, cancer cells are not able to create asparagine. Therefore, the depletion of asparagine by asparaginase kills cancer cells, while healthy cells are not as affected.
How is asparaginase typically given (administered)? Asparaginase may be given in a vein (intravenous) or as an injection into a muscle (intramuscular), and the dose depends on several factors, including the condition being treated, the size of the patient, the particular regimen being used, and the overall health of the patient. Patients will often receive a small “test” dose under the skin (intradermal) prior to therapy to detect an allergic reaction to asparaginase. During administration of asparaginase, patients will be closely monitored as they may experience a serious allergic reaction. If patients experience difficulty in breathing, wheezing, itching, agitation, lightheadedness, or swelling of the face during administration of asparaginase, they should notify their healthcare provider immediately.
How are patients typically monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while they are being treated with asparaginase. Typically, blood will be drawn to check levels of blood sugar, levels of electrolytes, functions of organs, such as the pancreas, liver and kidneys, function of blood clotting and levels of blood cells. Patients may also undergo physical examinations, scans or other measures to assess side effects and response to therapy.
What are the common (occur in 30% or more of patients) side effects of treatment with asparaginase?
What are the less common (occur in 10% to 29% of patients) side effects of treatment with asparaginase?
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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