Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
Generic Name: Ofatumumab
Ofatumumab is the generic name for the trade chemotherapy drug Arzerra. In some
cases, health care professionals may use the trade name Arzerra when referring to
the generic drug name Ofatumumab.
Arzerra is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug.
Arzerra is classified as a "monoclonal antibody" (For more detail, see "How
Arzerra Works" section below).
What Arzerra Is Used For:
- Arzerra is used for the treatment of 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 Arzerra Is Given:
- Arzerra is given as an injection or infusion into the vein (intravenous, IV)
over about 6 hours. The time of the infusion may be shortened, depending on whether
or not you have received ofatumumab in the past, or how well you tolerate Arzerra
- Medications may be given just before the infusion to reduce the occurrence of infusion-related
- There is no pill form of Arzerra.
- The amount of Arzerra and the schedule that it is given will receive depend
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 of Arzerra:
Important things to remember about the side effects of Arzerra:
- 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 Arzerra.
The following are common (occurring in greater than 30%) side effects for
patients taking Arzerra:
- 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. The nadir
counts are delayed with this drug.
- Nadir: Meaning low point, nadir is the point in time in which you experience low
blood counts. (may be prolonged over 2 weeks).
- A serious side effect of ofatumumab is potential for a severe infusion reaction,
typically with the first infusion (during infusion or within 30-120 minutes of infusion).
You will be given medication prior to the infusion to decrease this reaction and
monitored carefully during the infusion. If signs of reaction occur, the infusion
is stopped. In most cases, the infusion can be restarted at a slower rate
once symptoms subside.
These are less common side effects (occurring in 10-29%) for patients receiving
- Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)
- Upper respiratory tract infection (see cold symptoms)
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), chills (possible signs of infection)
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty breathing, closing up of the throat, swelling
of facial features, hives (possible allergic reaction).
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:
- Signs of infection such as redness or swelling, pain on swallowing, mouth sores,
sore throat, coughing up mucous, or burning with urination.
- 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 or urine
- Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities)
- Mouth sores (painful redness, swelling or ulcers)
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Swelling of the feet or ankles. Sudden weight gain
Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
- Before starting ofatumumab 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 ofatumumab.
- 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 the mother outweighs risk to the fetus).
- For both men and women: Do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking ofatumumab.
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 Arzerra.
Arzerra Self Care Tips:
- You will be closely monitored during the infusion, report immediately any pain,
burning or swelling at the infusion site, chest pain or palpitations; difficulty
breathing or swallowing; chills. These may be signs of an infusion reaction.
If signs of reaction occur, the infusion is stopped. In most cases, the infusion
can be restarted at a slower rate once symptoms subside.
- Drink 2 to 3 quarts of fluid for the first 48 hours after each infusion, unless
you were told to restrict your fluid intake.
- This medication infrequently causes nausea. But if you should experience nausea,
take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, and eat small, frequent
meals. Sucking on lozenges and chewing gum may also help.
- You may experience drowsiness or dizziness; avoid driving or engaging in tasks that
require alertness until your response to the drug is known.
- In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be avoided. You should discuss this
with your doctor.
- 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 Arzerra:
You will be checked regularly by your health care professional while you are taking
Arzerra, 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 Arzerra Works:
Arzerra is classified as a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies
are a 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 is usually given only
for cancers in which antigens (and the respective antibodies) have been identified
Arzerra works by targeting the CD20 antigen on normal and malignant B-cells.
Then the body's natural immune defenses are recruited to attack and kill the marked
B-cells. Stem cells (young cells in the bone marrow that will develop into
the various types of cells) do not have the CD20 antigen. This allows healthy
B-cells to regenerate after treatment.
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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