Chemocare.com

Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Temodar



Generic Name: Temozolomide

Drug Type:

Temodar is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug.  Temodar is classified as an "alkylating agent."  (For more detail, see "How Temodar Works" section below).

What Temodar Is Used For:

  • Treatment of anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumors

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 Temodar Is Given: 

  • Temodar is given in a capsule form by mouth. Capsules come in 5 mg, 20 mg, 100 mg, 250 mg, sizes.  Your health care provider will calculate your daily dosage for you (the combination and number of each pill size.)  
  • Take on an empty stomach (1 hour before or 2 hours after meals or at bedtime) to reduce stomach upset.
  • Do not open, crush, or chew capsules; swallow capsules whole with full 8 ounces of water. 
  • The frequency and the amount of Temodar you will receive depends on many factors, including your height and weight, your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer you have.  Your doctor will determine your dosage and schedule.

Side Effects of Temodar:

Important things to remember about the side effects of Temodar:

  • 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 Temodar:

These side effects are less common side effects (occurring in about 10-29%) of patients receiving Temodar:

  • 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.  This side effect is not common but can be severe.  Your blood counts will be monitored routinely throughout treatment.

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

Onset: none noted
Nadir: 7-10 days
Recovery: 22-28 days

Delayed Effects of Temodar:

  • Swelling (edema)
  • Central neurotoxicity; dizziness, problems with balance, weakness to one side of body (hemiparesis), seizures, or excessive sleepiness.  When used in treatment of brain tumors it is difficult to distinguish if these effects are due more to medication or disease.
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Although uncommon, tell your healthcare provider immediately if you are experiencing an adverse reaction to Temodar, such as fever, chills, shortness of breath, facial flushing.

There is a slight risk of developing a blood cancer such as leukemia after taking Temodar.  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:

Seek emergency help immediately and notify your health care provider, it you experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty breathing, closing up of the throat, swelling of facial features, hives (possible allergic reaction).

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)
  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C), chills (possible signs of infection)
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, jaw pain
  • Bleeding that does not stop

The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not emergency situations.  Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:

  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools or urine
  • Constipation unrelieved by laxative use
  • Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period)
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools or urine
  • Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities)
  • Signs of infection such as redness or swelling, pain on swallowing, coughing up mucous, or painful urination.
  • Unable to eat or drink for 24 hours or have signs of dehydration: tiredness, thirst, dry mouth, dark and decrease amount of urine, or dizziness.

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

Temodar Precautions: 

  • Before starting Temodar 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 Temodar.
  • Let your health care provider know if you've had an allergic reaction to Temodar or dacarbazine (DTIC) in the past, you may not be able to take temozolamide.
  • Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment.  Pregnancy category D (Temodar may be hazardous to the fetus.  Women who are pregnant or become pregnant must be advised of the potential hazard to the fetus.) For both men and women: Do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking Temodar. 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 Temodar.

Temodar Self Care Tips:

  • Take capsules as directed, take on an empty stomach (one hour before or two hours after eating or at bedtime) to help prevent stomach upset.  
  • Keep your bowels moving. Your health care provider may prescribe a stool softener to help prevent constipation that may be caused by this medicine. 
  • Drink 2 to 3 quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you were told to restrict your fluid intake, and maintain good nutrition. This will decrease your chances of being constipated, and prevent dehydration.
  • You may be at risk of infection so try to avoid crowds or people with colds and those not feeling well, and report fever or any other signs of infection immediately to your health care provider.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • 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.
  • You may experience drowsiness or dizziness; avoid driving or engaging in tasks that require alertness until your response to the drug is known.
  • 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 While Taking Temodar:

You will be checked regularly by your health care professional while you are taking Temodar, 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 Temodar 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:

Temodar 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 Temodar. 
  • 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.

Temodar is similar to the drug dacarbazine.  It acts as a "pro-drug" meaning it needs to be transformed to its active (cancer fighting) form by the body's metabolism.

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.