Irinotecan (Camptosar )

Warning:  You will be closely monitored while taking Irinotecan. This drug is known to cause severe diarrhea, usually during or right after treatment or 24 hours after. If the diarrhea comes immediately you will usually have side effects, such as runny nose, increased saliva, sweating, stomach cramps, watery eyes, or flushing. If your diarrhea starts later you may have something more severe and possibly fatal, such as dehydration, mineral imbalance and infection. Tell your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. If you experience any other symptoms such as, extreme thirst, stomach/abdominal pain, muscle cramps, weakness, lightheadedness, fast/slow/irregular heartbeat, fainting, or signs of an infection you should contact your healthcare professional immediately. Your doctor should prescribe you medication to help with diarrhea.

This treatment may also cause serious blood disorders, such as a decrease in your bone marrow function, which lessens your ability to fight infection.

Indications: Irinotecan is used to treat cancer of the colon and rectum. It may also be used for other treatments, but is not professionally published on the label to do so. Consult your doctor before use for bone and lung cancer.

Dosage: Irinotecan is given by a healthcare professional intravenously. The injection usually lasts about 90 minutes, usually in combination with other drugs. The usual dose is either 180 mg/m2 (milligram per square meter) of body surface area (BSA), every two weeks in polychemotherapy; or 350 mg/m2 in monochemotherapy every 3 weeks. However, in cases your body develops adverse reactions, the dosage can be reduced. Irinotecan should be administered by a specialist in oncology/hematology, or by competent nurse having experience in giving chemotherapy drugs.

Contraindications: Irinotecan should not be used if you have certain other medical conditions such as, bowel blockage and a certain metabolic disorder.

Before use of this medication you should tell your doctor of all medical history, including, radiation treatments, blood/bone marrow disorders, liver disease, kidney disease, or lung disease.

This drug may make you dizzy and have blurred vision. Do not doing anything that requires alertness, such as driving and operating machinery. Avoid alcohol consumption.

This medication is not recommended for the elderly, as they may be more sensitive to the side effects, such as diarrhea.

Pregnant women should not use this medication, as it may harm an unborn baby. Women of child bearing age should use reliable forms of birth control. Breast feeding is not recommended while taking this drug, as it may be passed on to a baby.

Do not have immunizations while taking this medication, and avoid people that have recently had the oral polio vaccination or the inhaled through the nose flu vaccine.

Mechanism of Action (MOA): Irinotecan is an antineoplastic (anticancer) agent; it kills cancer cells by interfering with their genetic material (DNA), which prevents them from reproducing or multiplying.

Interactions: This drug may cause interactions when combined with atazanvir, drugs affecting the liver enzymes that remove this treatment from the body (e.g. rifamycins, including rifabutin, certain anti-seizure medications including carbamazepine/phenytoin/phenobarbital) and water pills.

Avoid taking St. John’s Wort within 2 weeks before or during treatment. Avoid taking ketoconazole within 1 week during or after use of this drug. You should also avoid foods with tumeric.

Side effects: by stopping the growth of cancer cells, Irinotecan also interfere with your healthy cells that multiply quickly; this often cause adverse effects.  Common Irinotecan side effects include:

such as:

  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • hair loss
  • heartburn
  • weight loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • decreased appetite
  • formation of sores in the mouth
  • Bowel disorders (constipation or diarrhea).

Although rare, Irinotecan can cause serious side effects which require immediate medical attention; contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • painful or difficulty swallowing
  • severe low or high blood pressure
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • skin disorders such as rash, hives or itching
  • Swelling of your arms, feet, ankles, or lower legs.

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