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Mitotic Inhibitors for Chemotherapy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
docetaxel Docefrez, Taxotere
eribulin Halaven
estramustine Emcyt
Generic Name Brand Name
ixabepilone Ixempra
Generic Name Brand Name
paclitaxel Abraxane
vinblastine  
vincristine Marqibo
Generic Name Brand Name
vinorelbine Navelbine

How It Works

Mitotic inhibitors interfere with the cancer cell's ability to reproduce. They do this by stopping mitosis (a process by which a cell divides), or blocking enzymes that are needed for reproduction.

Mitotic inhibitors are intravenous (IV) medicines. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule for taking these medicines.

Why It Is Used

Mitotic inhibitors slow or stop the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. They may be used to treat cancers, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or testicular cancer.

How Well It Works

Mitotic inhibitors are effective antitumor medicines. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively these medicines slow or stop the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Signs of infection such as a fever or chills.
  • A drop in your heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) or belly pain. This may mean the medicine has damaged your liver.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Swollen belly, ankles, or feet.

Vinorelbine may cause serious problems with the large intestines, such as severe constipation, a blockage, a hole in the intestine, or dead tissue. These problems have caused some deaths.

Common side effects of these medicines include:

  • Hair loss. This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy).
  • Fatigue or weakness.
  • Muscle or joint aches.
  • Mouth sores and a sore throat.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Cessation of menstruation (amenorrhea), early menopause, and decreased sperm count (azoospermia).

Taking docetaxel may cause you to get acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). But this is very rare.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

While you are taking these medicines, you will have tests to check your blood cell counts and your liver function.

Mitotic inhibitors should not be taken by anyone who has liver problems, a low white-blood-cell count, or who has taken this medicine in the past.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking these medicines. Talk with your doctor about fertility before starting treatment.

Estramustine shouldn't be taken with milk products or calcium-rich foods as the calcium can make it harder for your body to absorb this medicine. Estramustine shouldn't be used by people who have had an allergic reaction to estradiol or chemotherapy medicines like estramustine.

Ixabepilone should not be taken by people who are allergic to synthetic castor oil. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take because ixabepilone can react with other medicines, vitamins, or herbal products. You will need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised August 14, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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