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Generic Name: irinotecan (EYE ri noe TEE kan)
Brand Name: Camptosar

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 28, 2020.

What is Camptosar?

Camptosar (irinotecan) is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Camptosar is used to treat cancers of the colon and rectum. It is usually given with other cancer medicines in a combination chemotherapy.

Camptosar may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important information

Camptosar can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches).

Camptosar can cause severe diarrhea, which can be life-threatening if it leads to dehydration. You may be given medications to prevent or quickly treat diarrhea. Call your doctor whenever you have diarrhea during your treatment with Camptosar.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Camptosar if you are allergic to irinotecan.

To make sure Camptosar is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • liver or kidney disease;

  • diabetes;

  • asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sleep apnea, or other breathing disorder;

  • an intestinal disorder or obstruction;

  • Gilbert's syndrome;

  • fructose intolerance (Camptosar contains sorbitol); or

  • if you are receiving radiation treatment to your abdomen or pelvic area.

Do not use Camptosar if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

It is not known whether irinotecan passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using Camptosar.

How is Camptosar given?

Camptosar is injected into a vein through an IV. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

The IV infusion can take up to 90 minutes to complete. Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle.

If any of this medicine gets on your skin, wash right away with soap and water.

You may be given medicine to prevent nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other side effects.

Camptosar can cause severe diarrhea, which can be life-threatening if it leads to dehydration.

Your doctor may recommend you keep anti-diarrhea medicine (such as loperamide or Imodium) on hand at all times. Take the anti-diarrhea medicine at the first sign of loose or frequent bowel movements. Do not take loperamide for longer than 2 full days without your doctor's advice.

Call your doctor whenever you have diarrhea during your treatment with Camptosar.

You may need frequent medical tests to be sure this medicine is not causing harmful effects. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.

If you need surgery, tell the surgeon ahead of time that you are using Camptosar.

Your doctor may recommend a DNA test before your first dose. Some people are genetically more likely to have certain side effects from Camptosar.

Camptosar dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Colorectal Cancer:

Either as a single agent or in combination with fluorouracil and leucovorin:
125 mg/m2 intravenously over 90 minutes once a week for four doses


as a single agent:
350 mg/m2 intravenously over 90 minutes every three weeks


in combination with fluorouracil and leucovorin:
180 mg/m2 intravenously over 90 minutes every other week for three doses.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your Camptosar injection.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while using Camptosar?

Avoid using a laxative or stool softener during treatment with Camptosar.

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using Camptosar, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Camptosar may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

Irinotecan can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Camptosar side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Camptosar: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe or ongoing vomiting or diarrhea;

  • nausea or vomiting that keeps you from drinking enough fluids;

  • sudden chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, dry cough, feeling short of breath;

  • pain, redness, numbness, and peeling skin on your hands or feet;

  • dehydration symptoms - feeling very thirsty or hot, being unable to urinate, heavy sweating, or hot and dry skin; or

  • low blood cell counts - fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, swollen gums, mouth sores, skin sores, rapid heart rate, pale skin, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, feeling light-headed.

Common Camptosar side effects may include:

  • diarrhea, constipation;

  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite;

  • weakness;

  • fever, pain, or other signs of infection;

  • abnormal liver function tests; or

  • temporary hair loss.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Camptosar?

Before you are treated with Camptosar, tell your doctor about all other cancer medicines you have recently used.

Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:

  • nefazodone;

  • St. John's wort;

  • an antibiotic - clarithromycin, erythromycin, telithromycin;

  • antifungal medicine - itraconazole, ketoconazole, voriconazole;

  • seizure medicine - carbamazepine, fosphenytoin, oxcarbazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone; or

  • antiviral medicine to treat hepatitis or HIV/AIDS - atazanavir, boceprevir, cobicistat (Stribild, Tybost), delavirdine, efavirenz, fosamprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, nevirapine, ritonavir, saquinavir, telaprevir.

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with irinotecan, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Camptosar only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.