Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
Trade name: Campath®
Chemocare.com uses generic names in all descriptions of drugs. Campath is the trade
name for alemtuzumab. In some cases, health care professionals may use the trade
name campath when referring to the generic drug name alemtuzumab.
Drug type: Alemtuzumab is a monoclonal antibody. (For
more detail see "How this drug works" section below).
What Alemtuzumab Is Used For:
- B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians sometimes
elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it might be helpful.
How Alemtuzumab Is Given:
- This drug is administered by infusion into a vein (intravenous, IV).
- Premedications may be given just before the infusion to reduce the occurrence of
- The starting dose of alemtuzumab is low, as the dose is tolerated the amount of
medication in the infusion is increased. Once the maximum targeted dose is
reached that dose is continued for the remainder of the treatment period.
- The amount of drug you will receive depends on many factors, including your height
and weight, your general health or other health problems. Your doctor will
determine your dose and schedule.
Important things to remember about the side effects of alemtuzumab:
- 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
Infusion-related side effects (symptoms which may occur during
the actual treatment) include:
- Infusion-related reaction: Occur within the first 30-60 minutes after the start
of the infusion and most commonly during the first week of treatment. Symptoms
include: fever and chills, nausea and vomiting, itching, skin rash, fatigue headache,
diarrhea, shortness of breath, and/or low blood pressure.
- Premedication is given to reduce the incidence of infusion-related reactions, and
the infusion is started with a test dose that is gradually increased as tolerated.
The following are common (occurring in greater than 30%) side effects for
patients taking alemtuzumab:
- Low blood counts. Your white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily
decrease in number. This can put you at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or
- Nausea and vomiting. Infection.
These are less common side effects (occurring in 10-29%) for patients receiving
- Bronchitis (see lung problems)
- Muscle pain
- Poor appetite
- Sweating (see skin reactions)
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Mouth sores
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Sore throat (see cold symptoms)
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Back pain
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 the following:
- 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 after noticing any of
- Vomiting (more than 4-5 episodes within a 24-hour period).
- Nausea that interferes with eating and is not relieved by medications prescribed
by your doctor.
- Diarrhea (4 to 6 stools within a 24-hour period).
- Unusual bleeding or bruising.
- Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools or urine.
- Extreme fatigue (unable to perform self-care activities)
- Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.
- Before starting alemtuzumab treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any
other medications you are taking (including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or
herbal remedies). Do not take aspirin or products containing aspirin unless your
doctor permits this.
- Alemtuzumab may be inadvisable if you have had a hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction
to another monoclonal antibody.
- Alemtuzumab cannot be taken if an infection is present.
- Antibiotic medication is often prescribed with alemtuzumab, make sure to take it
exactly as prescribed.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without your doctor's approval while taking
- 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 if
benefit to mother outweighs risk to fetus).
- For both men and women: Do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking alemtuzamab.
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.
- Use an electric razor and a soft toothbrush to minimize bleeding.
- Avoid contact sports or activities that could cause injury.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid people with any type of infection or who recently have been vaccinated.
- To reduce nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, and
eat small, frequent meals.
- To treat mouth sores, use a soft toothbrush, and rinse three times a day with 1/2
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 8 oz. of water.
- Avoid sun exposure. Wear SPF 15 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.
- Drink two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
- Maintain good nutrition.
- In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be minimized or avoided. You should
discuss this with your doctor.
- 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 alemtuzumab, 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 Alemtuzumab Works:
Monoclonal antibodies are a relatively new type of "targeted" cancer therapy.
Antibodies are an integral part of the body's immune system. Normally, the
body creates antibodies in response to an antigen (such as a protein in a germ)
that has entered the body. The antibodies attach to the antigen in order to
mark it for destruction by the immune system.
To make anti-cancer monoclonal antibodies in the laboratory, scientists analyze
specific antigens on the surface of cancer cells (the targets). Then, using
animal and human proteins, they create a specific antibody that will attach to the
target antigen on the cancer cells. When given to the patient, these monoclonal
antibodies will attach to matching antigens like a key fits a lock.
Since monoclonal antibodies target only specific cells, they may cause less toxicity
to healthy cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy are usually given only for cancers
in which antigens (and the respective antibodies) have been identified already.
Alemtuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets an antigen known as CD52, a common
antigen found on B and T cells (part of the body's immune system). When the
alemtuzumab antibody attaches to the CD52 antigen, the body's immune system is activated
to destroy these targeted cells in the blood and bone marrow. Since the CD52
antigen is also present on healthy B and T cells, however, treatment will temporarily
weaken your immune system and care must be taken to protect you from infection during
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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