Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
Trade name: DTIC-Dome ®
Other names: DTIC, DIC, Imidazole Carboxamide
Drug type: Dacarbazine is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug. This medication is classified as an "alkylating agent." (For more detail, see "How this drug works" section below).
What This Drug Is Used For:
- Dacarbazine is used for metastatic malignant melanoma, Hodgkin's disease, soft tissue sarcomas, neuroblastoma, fibrosarcomas, rhabdomyosarcoma, islet cell carcinoma, and medullary carcinoma of the thyroid.
Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.
How This Drug Is Given:
- Dacarbazine is given into a vein (intravenously, IV).
- Dacarbazine is an irritant. An irritant is a chemical that can cause inflammation of the vein through which it is given. If the medication escapes from the vein it can cause tissue damage. The nurse or doctor who gives this medication must be carefully trained. If you experience pain or notice redness or swelling at the IV site while you are receiving dacarbazine, alert your health care professional immediately.
- The amount of dacarbazine that you will receive depends on many factors, including your height and weight, your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition being treated. Your doctor will determine your dose and schedule.
Important things to remember about the side effects of dacarbazine:
- Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
- Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
- Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
- There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
- There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.
The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking dacarbazine:
- Local pain, burning sensation and irritation at the needle site during the infusion.
- Low blood counts. Your white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease. This can put you at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding.
- Onset: 5 - 7 days
- Nadir: 7 - 10 days
- Recovery: 21 - 28 days
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Poor appetite.
- Elevation of blood liver enzymes.
These side effects are less common side effects (occurring in about 10-29%) of patients receiving dacarbazine:
- Flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, aches).
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
- Sensitivity to the sun - may get sunburned quickly (photosensitivity) (see skin reactions).
- There is a slight risk of developing a blood cancer such as leukemia after taking dacarbazine. Talk to your doctor about this risk.
Not all side effects are listed above. Some that are rare (occurring in less than 10% of patients) are not listed here. However, you should always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
When to contact your doctor or health care provider:
Contact your health care provider immediately, day or night, if you should experience any of the following symptoms:
- Fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher, chills (possible signs of infection).
The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency. Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:
- Nausea (interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medication).
- Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period)
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools
- Blood in the urine
- Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities)
- Pain, redness or swelling at IV site
Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
- Before starting dacarbazine treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking (including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.). Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin unless your doctor specifically permits this.
- Do not receive any kind of immunization or vaccination without your doctor's approval while taking dacarbazine.
- Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment. Pregnancy category C (use in pregnancy only when benefit to mother outweighs risk to fetus).
- For both men and women: Do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking dacarbazine. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended. Discuss with your doctor when you may safely become pregnant or conceive a child after therapy.
- Do not breast feed while taking this medication.
- Apply ice if you have any pain, redness or swelling at the IV site, and notify your doctor.
- Drink at least two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
- You may be at risk of infection so try to avoid crowds or people with colds, and report fever or any other signs of infection immediately to your health care provider.
- Wash your hands often.
- To help treat/prevent mouth sores, use a soft toothbrush, and rinse three times a day with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda and/or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 8 ounces of water.
- Use an electric razor and a soft toothbrush to minimize bleeding.
- Avoid contact sports or activities that could cause injury.
- To reduce nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, and eat small, frequent meals.
- Avoid sun exposure. Wear SPF 15 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.
- In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely. You should discuss this with your doctor.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Maintain good nutrition.
- If you experience symptoms or side effects, be sure to discuss them with your health care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.
Monitoring and Testing:
You will be checked regularly by your doctor while you are taking dacarbazine, to monitor side effects and check your response to therapy. Periodic blood work to monitor your complete blood count (CBC) as well as the function of other organs (such as your kidneys and liver) will also be ordered by your doctor.
How This Drug Works:
Cancerous tumors are characterized by cell division, which is no longer controlled as it is in normal tissue. "Normal" cells stop dividing when they come into contact with like cells, a mechanism known as contact inhibition. Cancerous cells lose this ability. Cancer cells no longer have the normal checks and balances in place that control and limit cell division. The process of cell division, whether normal or cancerous cells, is through the cell cycle. The cell cycle goes from the resting phase, through active growing phases, and then to mitosis (division).
The ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells depends on its ability to halt cell division. Usually, the drugs work by damaging the RNA or DNA that tells the cell how to copy itself in division. If the cells are unable to divide, they die. The faster the cells are dividing, the more likely it is that chemotherapy will kill the cells, causing the tumor to shrink. They also induce cell suicide (self-death or apoptosis).
Chemotherapy drugs that affect cells only when they are dividing are called cell-cycle specific. Chemotherapy drugs that affect cells when they are at rest are called cell-cycle non-specific. The scheduling of chemotherapy is set based on the type of cells, rate at which they divide, and the time at which a given drug is likely to be effective. This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.
Chemotherapy is most effective at killing cells that are rapidly dividing. Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not know the difference between the cancerous cells and the normal cells. The "normal" cells will grow back and be healthy but in the meantime, side effects occur. The "normal" cells most commonly affected by chemotherapy are the blood cells, the cells in the mouth, stomach and bowel, and the hair follicles; resulting in low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, and/or hair loss. Different drugs may affect different parts of the body.
Chemotherapy (anti-neoplastic drugs) is divided into five classes based on how they work to kill cancer. Although these drugs are divided into groups, there is some overlap among some of the specific drugs. The following are the types of chemotherapy:
Dacarbazine is classified as an alkylating agent. Alkylating agents are most active in the resting phase of the cell. These drugs are cell-cycle non-specific. There are several types of alkylating agents.
- Mustard gas derivatives: Mechlorethamine, Cyclophosphamide, Chlorambucil, Melphalan, and Ifosfamide.
- Ethylenimines: Thiotepa and Hexamethylmelamine.
- Alkylsulfonates: Busulfan.
- Hydrazines and Triazines: Altretamine, Procarbazine, Dacarbazine and Temozolomide.
- Nitrosureas: Carmustine, Lomustine and Streptozocin. Nitrosureas are unique because, unlike most chemotherapy, they can cross the blood-brain barrier. They can be useful in treating brain tumors.
- Metal salts: Carboplatin, Cisplatin, and Oxaliplatin.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.
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