Generic Name: cetuximab (se-TUX-i-mab)
Brand Name: Erbitux
Serious and sometimes fatal infusion reactions have occurred in patients while receiving cetuximab. Most of the reactions have occurred during the first dose. Symptoms may include trouble breathing or swallowing; unusual hoarseness; wheezing; hives; itching; fever; chills; severe dizziness, headache, or light-headedness; fainting; fast heartbeat; flushing; loss of consciousness; sudden, severe nausea or vomiting; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue; chest, jaw, or arm pain; tremors; unusual sweating; or chest tightness. Tell your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms or other unusual effects during or after an infusion.
Heart attack and/or sudden death have rarely occurred in patients who receive cetuximab along with radiation or certain other chemotherapy medicines to treat certain types of cancer of the head and neck. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of heart blood vessel problems or other heart problems (eg, heart failure, irregular heartbeat). Lab tests, including blood electrolytes, may be performed while you use cetuximab and for a period of time after you finish cetuximab. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
Cetuximab is used for:
Treating certain types of head, neck, and colorectal cancer. Cetuximab may be used alone or along with radiation treatments or other medicines. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.
Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody. It works by blocking a certain growth factor. This helps to reduce the growth and survival of certain types of cancer cells.
Do NOT use cetuximab if:
- you are allergic to any ingredient in cetuximab
- you are using cetuximab to treat colorectal cancer and you have a certain type of gene mutation (K-RAS)
Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.
Before using cetuximab:
Some medical conditions may interact with cetuximab. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:
- if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding
- if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
- if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances (eg, mouse proteins)
- if you have lung or breathing problems (eg, interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis), abnormal blood electrolyte levels (eg, calcium, magnesium, potassium), or a respiratory tract infection
- if you have a history of blood vessel problems (eg, in the heart) or heart problems (eg, heart failure, irregular heartbeat)
- if you are having radiation therapy or other types of chemotherapy (eg, cisplatin)
Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with cetuximab. However, no specific interactions with cetuximab are known at this time.
Ask your health care provider if cetuximab may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.
How to use cetuximab:
Use cetuximab as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.
- Cetuximab is given as an injection at your doctor's office, hospital, or clinic. Contact your health care provider if you have any questions.
- Your doctor may give you another medicine (eg, an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine) before you receive cetuximab to help reduce the risk of an infusion reaction. Your health care provider will monitor you for an infusion reaction while you receive cetuximab and for at least 1 hour after receiving your dose. Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
- If you miss a dose of cetuximab, contact your doctor right away.
Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use cetuximab.
Important safety information:
- Tell your doctor or dentist that you take cetuximab before you receive any medical or dental care, emergency care, or surgery.
- Cetuximab may cause dizziness. This effect may be worse if you take it with alcohol or certain medicines. Use cetuximab with caution. Do not drive or perform other possibly unsafe tasks until you know how you react to it.
- Cetuximab may cause you to become sunburned more easily. Avoid the sun, sunlamps, or tanning booths until you know how you react to cetuximab. If you must be outside for more than a short time, use a sunscreen or wear protective clothing while you use cetuximab and for 2 months after your last dose.
- If nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea occurs, you will need to take care not to become dehydrated. Contact your doctor for instructions on how to lessen these effects.
- Cetuximab may lower the ability of your body to fight infection. Avoid contact with people who have colds or infections. Tell your doctor if you notice signs of infection, such as fever, sore throat, rash, or chills.
- A severe skin reaction (Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis) may happen. It can cause serious health problems that may not go away, and sometimes death. Get medical help right away if you have signs like red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin (with or without fever); red or irritated eyes; or sores in your mouth, throat, nose, or eyes.
- Men who take cetuximab should always use a condom when having sex with a woman who may become pregnant. Do this for as long as you take cetuximab and for 6 months after you stop taking it.
- Women who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control while using cetuximab and for at least 6 months after the last dose. If you have questions about effective birth control, talk with your doctor.
- Do not receive a live vaccine (eg, measles, mumps) while you are taking cetuximab. Talk with your doctor before you receive any vaccine.
- Lab tests, including blood electrolytes, may be performed while you use cetuximab and for 8 weeks after you stop using it. These tests may be used to monitor your condition or check for side effects. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
- PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: It is not known if cetuximab can cause harm to the fetus. If you become pregnant, contact your doctor. You will need to discuss the benefits and risks of using cetuximab while you are pregnant. It is not known if this medicine is found in breast milk. Do not breast-feed while using cetuximab or for 60 days after your last dose.
Possible side effects of cetuximab:
All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:
Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:
Changes in fingernails or toenails; constipation; diarrhea; dry mouth; dry skin; hair loss; headache; indigestion; joint pain; loss of appetite; mild acne; mild sore throat; nausea; stomach upset; taste changes; tiredness; trouble sleeping; vomiting; weakness; weight loss.
Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing or swallowing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue; unusual hoarseness); bone pain; burning, numbness, or tingling; chest, jaw, or arm pain; confusion; coughing up blood; decreased urination; eye or eyelid pain, redness, swelling, or irritation; fainting; fever, chills, or persistent sore throat; mental or mood changes (eg, anxiety, depression); moderate to severe skin changes (eg, cracking or painful skin, moderate to severe itching, oozing of the skin); muscle pain, weakness, or cramping; new or worsening lung or breathing problems (eg, cough, shortness of breath); pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site or near the nailbed; severe headache; severe or persistent acne; sores on the lips or in the mouth; stiff neck; sudden, severe nausea or vomiting; swelling of the hands, legs, or feet; symptoms of low blood magnesium levels (eg, irregular heartbeat; muscle aches or spasms; seizures; sluggishness; tremor; unusual loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or weakness); unusual sweating; very dry mouth or eyes.
This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, contact your health care provider. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. To report side effects to the appropriate agency, please read the Guide to Reporting Problems to FDA.
If OVERDOSE is suspected:
Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center, or emergency room immediately.Proper storage of cetuximab:
Cetuximab is handled and stored by a health care provider. You will not store it at home. Keep all medicines out of the reach of children and away from pets.
- If you have any questions about cetuximab, please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
- Cetuximab is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
- If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
- Check with your pharmacist about how to dispose of unused medicine.
This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take cetuximab or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about cetuximab. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to cetuximab. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using cetuximab.
Disclaimer: This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this medicine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this medicine.
More about cetuximab
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- Support Group
- En Español
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- Drug class: EGFR inhibitors
Other brands: Erbitux