Chemocare.com

Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Cladribine



(KLA-drih-bean)

Trade name: LeustatinTM
Other names: 2-CdA, 2-Chlorodeoxyadenosine

Chemocare.com uses generic names in all descriptions of drugs. 2-CdA is the trade name for cladribine. Leustatin and 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine are other names for cladribine. In some cases, health care professionals may use the trade name 2-CdA or other names leustatin or 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine when referring to the generic drug name cladribine.

Drug type: Cladribine 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 this drug is used for:

Cladribine is used to treat:

  • hairy cell leukemia
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphomas

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:

  • Cladribine is administered by infusion through a vein.  The infusion may be over 1-2 hours on consecutive days, or may be as a continuous infusion over several days.  The way it is given depends on the protocol.
  • There is no pill form of cladribine.
  • The amount of cladribine 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.

Side effects:
Important things to remember about the side effects of cladribine:

  • 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.
  • Side effects of cladribine and their severity depend on how much of the drug is given.  In other words, high doses may produce more severe side effects.

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

  • Fever (incidence decreases with continued therapy)
  • Low white blood cell count.  (this can put you at risk for infection)
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia)

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

Onset: none noted
Nadir: 5-10 days
Recovery: 4-8 weeks

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

  • Nausea (mild), vomiting.
  • Skin rash.
  • Chills (see flu like symptoms).
  • Fatigue.
  • Skin reaction (redness, itching) at IV infusion site.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Headache.
  • Low platelet count (increased risk of bleeding).
  • Constipation.
  • Cough.

Note: You will be considered immunosuppressed (increased risk of developing infection) for up to one year after taking cladribine.

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 or 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:

  • Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities).
  • 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 or urine.
  • Constipation.

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

Precautions: 

  • Before starting cladribine 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 cladribine.
  • Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment. Pregnancy category D (cladribine 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 cladribine. 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.

Self-care tips:

  • To reduce nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, eat small amounts of food frequently.
  • 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.
  • Use an electric razor and a soft toothbrush to minimize bleeding.
  • Avoid contact sports or activities that could cause injury.
  • In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely. You should discuss this with your doctor.
  • Avoid sun exposure. Wear SPF 15 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.  
  • 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 cladribine, 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.

Cladribine 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.

  • Folic acid antagonist:  Methotrexate.
  • Pyrimidine antagonist:  5-Fluorouracil, Foxuridine, Cytarabine, Capecitabine, and Gemcitabine.
  • Purine antagonist:  6-Mercaptopurine and 6-Thioguanine.
  • Adenosine deaminase inhibitor:  Cladribine, Fludarabine and Pentostatin.

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.