Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond


Generic name:  Amifostine uses generic names in all descriptions of drugs. Ethyol is the trade name for amifostine. In some cases, health care professionals may use the trade name ethyol when referring to the generic drug name amifostine.

Drug type: Ethyol is a drug used to reduce the undesired side effects of certain chemotherapy agents and radiation treatment.  It is referred to as a chemoprotectant, antineoplastic adjunct, or cytoprotective agent. (For more detail, see "How this drug works" section below).

What This Drug Is Used For:

  • Amifostine can help relieve dry mouth problems for patients with head and neck cancer who are undergoing radiation treatment.  
  • Women with advanced ovarian cancer who are receiving repeated doses of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin. In these people, amifostine can help reduce harmful effects of chemotherapy on the kidneys.

Note:  If a drug has been approved for one used, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.

How This Drug Is Given:

  • Amifostine is given into a vein (intravenous, IV) infusion starting about 15-30 minutes before chemotherapy or radiation therapy is scheduled to begin. 
  • Before amifostine is given, patients must drink plenty of fluids.  Patients receive this medicine lying down, facing up, and blood pressure is monitored frequently.  
  • Anti-nausea medicine may be given in conjunction with amifostine.
  • The amount of amifostine 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 amifostine:

  • 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.

All side effects are infusion-related (occur while the medicine is being given).

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

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Nausea/Vomiting (may be severe)

These are less common side effects for patients receiving amifostine:

  • Flushing or redness of the face or neck (see skin reactions)
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Sneezing (see cold symptoms)
  • Hiccups
  • Feeling hot or cold, chills

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:

If you experience any of the infusion-related side effects listed above, make sure you tell your health care provider right away.

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


  • Before starting amifostine treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking (including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or herbal remedies).
  • Amifostine may be inadvisable if you have had a hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction to aminothiol compounds or mannitol.
  • Your blood pressure medication will likely be stopped for 24 hours before treatment with amifostine.  You should discuss this with your doctor.
  • 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 amifostine. 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:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least 2-3 quarts every 24 hours) prior to therapy with amifostine, unless you are instructed otherwise.
  • To reduce nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed, and eat small, frequent meals.
  • 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:

Your blood pressure will be checked frequently during treatment. Patients with certain kidney problems who are at risk of low calcium levels in their blood will be monitored for this condition during treatment.

How This Drug Works:

Chemoprotective agents are drugs that are used with certain types of chemotherapy to protect the body from or minimize the side effects of the chemotherapy.  These medications do not eliminate side effects in general.  Rather, they protect the body from some of the potentially serious side effects.  These drugs also have side effects of their own so they are used only with specific types of chemotherapy or when the benefit clearly is greater than the risk. 

Amifostine is broken down by the body into other chemicals which can deactivate harmful components of chemotherapy drugs.  It also can behave as a scavenger, binding with harmful elements known as free radicals that can be produced by cisplatin-exposed tissues.

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