Brand Name(s): Gemzar
Drug Class: Antimetabolites
Treats: Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer
Gemcitabine is a chemotherapy drug that is used alone or in combination with other medications to treat certain types of cancer. Gemcitabine is an antimetabolite that prevents the creation of certain cells and thereby, it stops or slows tumor growth.
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Gemcitabine is used to treat certain carcinomas, and it may be used experimentally while chemotherapy in lymphomas or other types of tumors as well. Gemcitabine is given by the intravenous route only by a healthcare professional. Below you may find more detailed indications and usage of Gemcitabine:
- Advanced ovarian cancer, in combination with carboplatin for the treatment that has relapsed at least six months after the patient have completed of platinum-based therapy
- In combination with paclitaxel, first-line treatment of metastatic breast cancer after failure of prior anthracycline-containing adjuvant chemotherapy
- In combination with cisplatin for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer
- As a single agent for the treatment of pancreatic cancer
Gemcitabine dosage commonly ranges from 1-1.2 g/m2 according to the body surface area and the cancer type treatment. Usual adult dosages are as follows. Pancreatic Cancer Gemcitabine is prescribed to patients who were previously treated with 5-FU. 3 phase doses are the following:
- 1000 mg/m2 over 30 minutes once a week for the first 7 weeks
- One week rest
- Once a week for 3 weeks of each 28-day cycle.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: The following two schedules are possible; you should consult your doctor to choose the optimum schedule:
- Three-week schedule: 1250 mg/m2 over 30 minutes on Days 1 and 8 of each 21-day cycle
- Two-week schedule: 1000 mg/m2 over 30 minutes on Days 1, 8, and 15 of each 28-day cycle.
Breast Cancer Gemcitabine is administered with paclitaxel.
- Gemcitabine dose: 1250 mg/m2 over 30 minutes on Days 1 and 8 of each 21-day cycle.
- Paclitaxel dose: 175 mg/m2 on day 1. Paclitaxel is given as a 3 hour intravenous infusion before gemcitabine treatment.
Ovarian Cancer While ovarian cancer treatment, complete blood count should be checked.
- Common dose: 1000 mg/m2 over 30 minutes on Days 1 and 8 of each 21-day cycle.
Gemcitabine Side Effects
Gemcitabine as a chemotherapy drug may cause serious side effects. Tell about all side effects and unusual conditions to your doctor. During Gemcitabine treatment the following side effects may occur:
- Redness/pain at the injection site
- Flu-like symptoms (muscle aches, fever)
- Temporary hair loss
- Tingling/numbness of feet/hands
- Dizziness, fainting
- Mouth sores
- Sudden weight gain, swelling of feet/ankles
- Severe abdominal/stomach pain
- Bleeding/easy bruising
- Difficulty catching the breath
- Unusual tiredness
- Irregular/fast heartbeat
- Change in amount and colour of urine
- Yellowing of the skin/eyes
You should consult your doctor immediately in case of serious side effects and allergic reactions, i.e. severe headache, chest pain, weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, left/ jaw arm pain, vision changes, seizures, confusion, rash, swelling/itching of the tongue/throat/face, trouble breathing, dizziness.
Gemcitabine interacts with a total of 188 drugs. Gemcitabine interactions with other medications (prescription and non-prescription) may change how the drugs' work or increase side effects. Medications that interact with Gemcitabine may be summarized to the following list:
- Other cancer medications
- Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)
Gemcitabine also has interactions with certain medical conditions and diseases:
- Blood clotting
- Fever and flu-like symptoms
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems (e.g., cirrhosis, hepatitis, cancer in the liver, alcoholism)