Cancer Support Group

Sunday, Dec 17th

Last update:06:42:40 AM GMT

Home Cancer Leukemia Drugs used in the treatment of Leukemia

Drugs used in the treatment of Leukemia

Vincristine
This is a very valuable drug in the initial treatment of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia patients. It is usually given once a week by injection into a vein and has no short–term side effects. After repeated doses it can cause pins and needles and numbness in the fingers and toes but this disappears when treatment is stopped. Some patients notice thinning of their hair but this soon grows back once the course of treatment is finished. Constipation may be a problem in some patients.

Prednisolone
This is one of a family of steroid drugs which also include Prednisone and Dexamethasone. They are all very effective in killing leukemia cells and have little effect on normal cells. These drugs are usually part of the immediate treatment for ALL and can be continued for up to six weeks. Long term side effects include weight gain, red face, bone weakening, high blood pressure, diabetes and an increased susceptibility to infection. These problems are usually avoided if the drugs are given as a series of ‘Courses’ each of which lasts no longer than four to six weeks.

Daunorubicin
This is one of the most effective drugs in destroying leukemia cells in the body and is valuable in getting a complete remission. It is usually given by injecting into a vein. It can cause nausea and vomiting at the time it is given. It often causes hair loss starting ten to twenty days after the injection but the hair always grows back when the drug is stopped. Patients who have had a lot of Daunorubicin will be carefully checked for any effects on the heart. Similar drugs to Daunorubicin are Doxorubicin (also called Adriamycin), Idarubicin and Epirubicin.

L–asparaginase
This is a drug which selectively blocks the growth of leukemia cells. It is sometimes used, with other drugs, to induce remission in ALL. It is usually given as a daily injection for up to four weeks. Adults often develop allergic symptoms after some weeks and the drug may have to be stopped before the end of the course. It can sometimes affect the liver and the pancreas but these problems end when the drug is stopped.

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