Gemcitabine is an anticancer (antineoplastic or cytotoxic) chemotherapy drug that is intravenously dispensed. It is classified as an antimetabolite drug. Antimetabolites are substances very similar to the normal substances found inside the cell. When cells incorporate these substances into their cell metabolism, they lose the ability to divide. Antimetabolites are specific for each of the cell cycle steps. They attack the cells in very specific phases of the cycle. Antimetabolites are classified according to the substances with which interfere and gemcitabine is an analog of pyrimidine (a component of DNA) and therefore does not allow it to replicate, thus slowing down the DNA synthesis of cells and their proliferation.
Gemcitabine is used, alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents, in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer, non-small cell lung carcinoma, mesothelioma, certain types of leukemia, bladder cancer and is currently being studied for its application in other tumors, such as esophageal cancer.
Before starting a treatment with gemcitabine, the following PRECAUTIONS should be taken:
Inform your doctor about the other medications you are taking (including prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.). Do not take aspirin or products that contain aspirin unless your doctor specifically allows it.
Do not apply any type of immunization or vaccination without the approval of your doctor while receiving treatment with gemcitabine.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your healthcare professional before starting treatment. Gemcitabine is a drug classified in the D category (it can result in a risk for the fetus. Women who are pregnant or who become pregnant during treatment should be informed about the possible risk).
Both for men and women: Avoid conception while taking gemcitabine. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended. Consult your doctor the time needed to conceive without risk for the baby after the treatment.
Do not breastfeed while receiving gemcitabine.
SIDE EFFECTSAre almost always reversible and disappear when the treatment ends. The most common side effects (have an incidence greater than 30%) are: pseudo-flu symptoms (muscle pain, fever, headache, chills, fatigue), fever (6-12 hours after the first dose), fatigue, nausea (mild), vomiting, loss of appetite, skin rashes, low blood cell counts (white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease, this implies a great risk of infection, anemia and/or bleeding), increase of liver enzymes and presence of blood and/or proteins in the urine.
The following side effects are less frequent (incidence between 10% and 29%): diarrhea, weakness, hair loss, sores in the mouth, difficulty sleeping, dyspnea, lung problems.