Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Campath ®

Generic Name: Alemtuzumab

Drug Type:

Campath is a monoclonal antibody.  (For more detail see "How Campath Works" section below).

What Campath 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 Campath Is Given:

  • Campath is administered by infusion into a vein (intravenous, IV). 
  • Premedications may be given just before the infusion to reduce the occurrence of infusion-related symptoms.
  • The starting dose of Campath 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. 

Side Effects of Campath:

Important things to remember about the side effects of Campath:

  • 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 Campath:

These are less common side effects (occurring in 10-29% ) for patients receiving Campath:

  • Cough
  • Bronchitis (see lung problems)
  • Muscle pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Sweating (see skin reactions)
  • Headache
  • Numbness in the hands or feet
  • Mouth sores
  • Weakness
  • Swelling of the hands or feet
  • Sore throat (see cold symptoms)
  • Dizziness
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Heartburn
  • 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 the following:

  • 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.

Campath Precautions:

  • Before starting Campath 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.
  • Campath may be inadvisable if you have had a hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction to another monoclonal antibody.  
  • Campath cannot be taken if an infection is present.
  • Antibiotic medication is often prescribed with Campath, make sure to take it exactly as prescribed. 
  • Do not receive any kind of vaccination without your doctor's approval while taking Campath.
  • 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 Campath.

Campath Self-Care Tips:

  • 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 While Taking Campath:

You will be checked regularly by your doctor while you are taking Campath, 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 Campath 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.

Campath 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 Campath 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 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. is designed to provide the latest information about chemotherapy to patients and their families, caregivers and friends. For information about the 4th Angel Mentoring Program visit