Chemocare.com
Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Nipent

(Ni - pent)

Generic name: Pentostatin

Nipent is the trade name for pentostatin. In some cases, health care professionals may use the trade name Nipent when referring to the generic drug name pentostatin.

Drug type:  Nipent is an anti-cancer (“antineoplastic” or “cytotoxic”) chemotherapy drug.  This medication is classified as an “antimetabolite”.  (For more detail, see “How this drug works” section below.)

What Nipent Is Used For:

  • This medication is used in the treatment of hairy cell leukemia.  It may also be used in certain non-hodgkin lymphomas, including cutaneous t-cell lymphoma.

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 Nipent Is Given:

  • This medication is given by infusion through a vein (intravenously, by IV).
  • There is no pill form of this medication.
  • The amount of Nipent 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 you have.  Your doctor will determine your exact dosage and schedule. 

Side Effects:

Important things to remember about the side effects of Nipent:

  • You will not get all of the side effects mentioned below.
  • Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset, duration, and severity.
  • Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after therapy is complete.
  • Side effects are quite manageable.  There are many options to minimize or prevent them.

The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking Nipent:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • 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

Nadir: Meaning low point, nadir is the point in time between chemotherapy cycles in which you experience low blood counts.

Nadir: 7 days
Recovery: 10-14 days

  • Skin rash
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

The following side effects are less common (occurring in 10-29%) for patients taking Nipent:

  • Itching
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anorexia
  • Weakness
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Mouth sores
  • Shortness of breath

This list includes common and less common side effects for those taking pentostatin.  Side effects that are very rare -- occurring in less than about 10 percent of patients -- are not listed here.  But 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)
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing

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).
  • Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period).
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Pain or burning with urination.
  • Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities).
  • Mouth sores (painful redness, swelling or ulcers).

Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

Precautions:

  • Before starting Nipent 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 or 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 Nipent.
  • For both men and women: Use contraceptives, and do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking Nipent. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended.
  • Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment.  Pregnancy category D (Nipent may be hazardous to the fetus.  Women who are pregnant or become pregnant must be advised of the potential hazard to the fetus).  Do not breast feed while taking this medication.

Self-Care Tips:

  • 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 teaspoon of baking soda 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 pentostatin, to monitor side effects and check your response to therapy.  Periodic blood work will be obtained 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 Nipent 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.

Nipent belongs to the class of chemotherapy drugs called antimetabolites. Antimetabolites are very similar to normal substances within the cell. When the cells incorporate these substances into the cellular metabolism, they are unable to divide. Antimetabolites are cell-cycle specific. They attack cells at very specific phases in the cycle. Antimetabolites are classified according to the substances with which they interfere. Nipent is classified as an adenosine deaminase inhibitor.

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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