Mechlorethamine (Intravenous)

Overview

This drug is given by doctors to their patients as a part of palliative treatment options for multiple forms of cancer. It works by interfering with the ability of cancer cells to grow, which eventually destroys them. While it treats the patient's symptoms, it is not considered to be a cure.

Conditions Treated

  • Bronchogenic carcinoma

Type Of Medication

  • Alkylating agent

Brand names or other names:

  • Mustargen

Side Effects

This medication is intended to treat the symptoms of certain types of cancer, but there are times when it may cause some adverse reactions in addition to the effects it is intended to have. Some of these reactions may require medical attention, while others may not. If you have any questions about these or other side effects, ask your doctor for more information.

Some of the adverse reactions that can occur may require medical attention. If you experience any of the following, contact your doctor immediately.

These side effects include:

  • Blood in stools or urine

There are other side effects which could occur that do not necessitate calling your doctor for medical attention. These side effects include:

  • Appetite loss

While these effects may not require immediate medical attention, you should discuss them with your doctor if they continue after this medication reaches its full effect or if they worsen. You should also discuss any questions or concerns you have about these side effects with your doctor. They may be able to recommend ways to lessen or stop the occurrence of these effects.

Additionally, diarrhea or vomiting that will not stop can cause serious dehydration. Let your doctor know right away if you start to experience symptoms, like an unusual decrease in urination, feeling unusually thirsty or having an unusually dry mouth feeling, having a fast heartbeat, or lightheadedness or dizziness.

Not all of the side effects associated with this medication occur while you are using it. Some effects may not appear until months or years after you have finished treatment, and include some of the symptoms listed above as well as other forms of cancer.

There may be other side effects of taking this medication that are not listed above. Talk to your doctor about any effects you experience while using it that you believe are the result of using this medication, or if you have any other questions about the medication itself.

While it is a rare occurrence, it is possible to have a severe allergic reaction to this medication or some of its inactive ingredients. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling severe dizziness

Dosage

Mechlorethamine is considered to be highly toxic, and should only be administered to patients by a doctor with experience using cancer chemotherapeutic agents or under that doctor's supervision. Your doctor will determine the exact amount, frequency of doses, and the most appropriate method of administering this medication prior to the start of treatment.

The recommended dosage for adult patients for a malignant disease:

Your doctor or another healthcare professional will administer 0.4 mg/kg as either a single dose or divided doses between 0.1 and 0.2 mg/kg per day.

The recommended dosage for pediatric patients for a malignant disease:

Recommended dosage information for this age group is not available because its safety and effectiveness have not been fully established yet. If your doctor believes this is the best course of treatment, they will determine the exact dosage, how frequently they should be given, and appropriate methods for administering it.

The recommended dosage for geriatric patients for a malignant disease:

A healthcare professional will administer 0.4 mg/kg as either a single dose or divided doses between 0.1 and 0.2 mg/kg per day.

Dose amounts vary based on the patient's weight, overall health, and blood levels that the doctor will check frequently over the course of the patient's treatment.

Types of Interactions:

While mechlorethamine is intended to treat symptoms of certain kinds of cancer, its intended effects can change once it comes into contact with other medications and substances within the body. Its use can also affect other medical conditions the patient already has, or cause other medical conditions to occur.

Drug Interactions:

There are certain prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements, and vaccines that will have negative interactions with this medicine. Some of the more common interactions are with:

  • Antibiotic medications like bleomycin

This is not a complete list of drugs that can be negatively affected by or negatively affect mechlorethamine. Always be prepared to discuss which prescription medications, nonprescription drugs, nutritional supplements and other products you are using with your doctor. You should also be prepared to share a list of vaccines you have had recently or are preparing to have. This information will give your doctor the ability to better determine which course of treatment is best for you and your current condition.

Food and Drink Interactions:

Be cautious about your use of alcohol while using this drug, as it is possible for alcohol to enhance some of the side effects of the drug - especially drowsiness and dizziness.

Avoid use of turmeric spice while on this medication, as it is known to lessen this medication's ability to slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells.

There may be other interactions between items you consume and this medication. It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor about your dietary habits prior to starting treatment for any medical condition.

Disease Interactions:

Use of this medication may cause a decrease in a patient's bone marrow activity (myelosuppression). It is also possible for patients who have previously suffered myelosuppression due to previous radiation treatment or chemotherapy to see signs and symptoms of this condition return during treatment with this drug. If you see any of the following signs or symptoms, let your doctor right away. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Sore throat

There are other bone marrow abnormalities that may occur during treatment.

There may also be other medical conditions not mentioned above that are affected by or the result of treatment with this medication. Be sure to discuss your medical history with your doctor prior to starting treatment so they can better explore the risk and benefits and recommend the best possible plan for treating your condition.

Warnings

Before you start treatment with mechlorethamine, inform your doctor of any allergies you may have to it or anything else. It is possible that this medication contains inactive ingredients which might cause severe allergic reactions or other serious issues.

Talk to your doctor about your medical history before you use this medication, especial if you have a history of blood or bleeding problems, gout, kidney disease, liver issues, recent/current/returning infections, shingles, a weakened immune system, or you have recently undergone radiation treatment or X-ray treatment.

Clear any and all immunizations and vaccines with your doctor while on this medication, and stay away from people you know have recently received a live vaccine. This medication can weaken your immune system, and make you more susceptible to whichever illness the people around you are building an immunity to.

If you are scheduled to have surgery, tell the doctor or dentist performing the procedure beforehand about all of the medications and products you use, such as prescription and nonprescription drugs and vitamin and health supplements.

If you feel any pain, burning, or swelling around the area where this medication is injected, let your caregivers know. If you start seeing skin changes around that area, talk to your doctor immediately.

This medication can make you feel drowsy or dizzy. Do not drive, use heavy machinery, or perform any other activity that requires you to be alert until you know you can perform them safely. Limit your alcohol intake as well, as drinking can heighten these effects.

This drug can lower your white blood cell count temporarily, making you more prone to getting infections and for infections you already have to worsen. To lower your risk, try to avoid contact with anyone who has an infection that can be spread from person to person (like the flu, measles or chicken pox). Ask your doctor for more information, and let them know if you believe you have been exposed to an infection.

This medication can also lower the levels of platelets in your blood, which are an important part of the process of blood clotting. Lower platelet levels will increase the risk of serious problems from cuts, bruises and other injuries. Exercise caution when you are using sharp objects like scissors, nail cutters and razors. Also, avoid activities like contact sports to lower your risk of these problems occurring.

On rare occasions, patients using this medication or type of medication have been diagnosed with other forms of cancer like leukemia. You are a greater risk of this occurring when you are using it with other forms of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Ask your doctor for more information about these possible effects and what signs you may need to watch out for.

For men, use of this medication can affect your body's sperm production. This effect may lower your fertility levels. It may also affect the fertility levels in women of child-bearing age. Ask your doctor for more information about this potential risk.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, tell your doctor before you start using this medication. This drug may cause harm to the fetus while it is still developing in the womb. If you become pregnant while using it, consult with your doctor immediately about the risk and benefits of continuing this part of your treatment.

If you are nursing, talk to your doctor about the possible risks of passing this medication to your infant through breast milk.

Storage

This medication is only administered by healthcare professionals experienced in working with cancer chemotherapeutic agents at certain medical facilities. The medication is stored in accordance with the facility's storage policies for this type of medication, and prepared according to specific directions from its manufacturer. Healthcare professionals administering this drug will dispose of expired or unusable portions of doses according to their facility's procedures for disposal of this type of medication.

Summary

Mechlorethamine is known to be an effective treatment for symptoms of conditions like bronchogenic carcinoma, chronic myelotic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma, lymphosarcoma, and mycosis fungoides. While it is not a cure for any of these conditions, it can be a great help, so long as it is administered correctly, in the right amount, and for the right amount of time.

A doctor will determine the correct dose and the length of treatment with this medication based on a variety of factors, including their patient's medical history, the patient's family's medical history, medications the patient is already taking, and the patient's dietary habits. In order to make these determinations, a doctor will need their patient to initiate open and honest conversations about the state of their health as well as what they know about their family's health. The more information a doctor has, the better aware they are of the benefits and risks of using a specific medication for treatment, and the more likely they are to help develop a treatment plan that works.

Cancer is a serious medical condition, but many people do survive. For some forms of cancer, mechlorethamine greatly aids in the process of treating it. Successful treatment of this condition gives patients years longer than they could have anticipated otherwise, and usually the quality of life to enjoy the years they have gained.