Generic Name: carmustine (kar-MUS-teen)
Carmustine causes suppression of marrow function (including thrombocytopenia and leukopenia), which may contribute to bleeding and overwhelming infections. Monitor blood counts, adjust dosage based on nadir, and do not administer a repeat course until blood counts recover. Carmustine causes dose-related pulmonary toxicity; patients receiving greater than 1400 mg/m(2) cumulative dose are at significantly higher risk. Delayed pulmonary toxicity can occur years after treatment and may result in death, particularly in patients treated in childhood .
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 16, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
- Powder for Solution
Therapeutic Class: Antineoplastic Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Alkylating Agent
Chemical Class: Nitrosourea
Uses for carmustine
Carmustine injection is used alone or together with other medicines to treat certain type of brain tumors (eg, glioblastoma, brainstem glioma, medulloblastoma, astrocytoma, ependymoma, and metastatic brain tumors), cancer of the lymph system (eg, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), and a certain type of cancer in the bone marrow (eg, multiple myeloma). It may also be used to treat other kinds of cancer, as determined by your doctor.
Carmustine belongs to the group of alkylating agents. It interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal body cells may also be affected by carmustine, other effects may occur. Some of these may be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Other effects (eg, hair loss), may not be serious but may cause concern. Some effects may not occur for months or years after the medicine is used.
Before you begin treatment with carmustine, you and your doctor should talk about the benefits carmustine will do as well as the risks.
Carmustine is to be given only by or under the immediate supervision of your doctor.
Before using carmustine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For carmustine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to carmustine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies on the relationship of age to the effects of carmustine injection have not been performed in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
No information is available on the relationship of age to the effects of carmustine injection in geriatric patients. However, elderly patients are more likely to have age-related kidney, liver, or heart problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving carmustine injection.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving carmustine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using carmustine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
- Measles Virus Vaccine, Live
- Mumps Virus Vaccine, Live
- Rotavirus Vaccine, Live
- Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Varicella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Zoster Vaccine, Live
Using carmustine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Adenovirus Vaccine
- Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin Vaccine, Live
- Cholera Vaccine, Live
- Dengue Tetravalent Vaccine, Live
- Influenza Virus Vaccine, Live
- Poliovirus Vaccine, Live
- Smallpox Vaccine
- Typhoid Vaccine
- Yellow Fever Vaccine
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of carmustine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Anemia (low red cells in the blood) or
- Bone marrow problems (eg, leukemia) or
- Leukopenia or neutropenia (low white cells in the blood) or
- Liver disease or
- Lung disease (eg, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary toxicity) or
- Thrombocytopenia (low platelets in the blood)—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
- Kidney disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
Proper use of carmustine
Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving carmustine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
A nurse or other trained health professional will give you carmustine in a hospital. Carmustine is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.
Carmustine is usually given every 6 weeks. This maybe given as a single dose or divided into daily injections on 2 consecutive days.
Carmustine is sometimes given together with certain other medicines. If you are using a combination of medicines, it is important that you receive each one at the proper time. If you are taking some of these medicines by mouth, ask your doctor to help you plan a way to take them at the right times.
Carmustine often causes nausea and vomiting, which usually last no longer than 4 to 6 hours. It is very important that you continue to receive the medicine, even if you begin to feel ill. Ask your doctor for ways to lessen these effects.
Precautions while using carmustine
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that carmustine is working properly. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Using carmustine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Females need to use an effective form of birth control during treatment and for at least 6 months while you are using carmustine to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away. Males need to use an effective form of contraceptive during treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose to prevent your partner from becoming pregnant.
Carmustine may increase your risk of developing cancer and lung problems (such as pulmonary fibrosis or toxicity). This is more likely if you receive high doses of carmustine or use it for a long time.
While you are being treated with carmustine injection, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccines) without your doctor's approval. Carmustine may lower your body's resistance and the vaccine may not work as well for you or you might get the infection the vaccine is meant to prevent. In addition, you should not be around other persons living in your household who receive live vaccines because there is a chance they could pass the virus on to you. Some examples of live vaccines include measles, mumps, influenza (nasal flu vaccine), poliovirus (oral form), rotavirus, and rubella. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
Carmustine can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:
- If you can, avoid people with infections. Check with your doctor immediately if you think you are getting an infection or if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.
- Check with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising, black, tarry stools, blood in the urine or stools, or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
- Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may recommend other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Check with your medical doctor before having any dental work done.
- Do not touch your eyes or the inside of your nose unless you have just washed your hands and have not touched anything else in the meantime.
- Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
- Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur.
If carmustine accidentally seeps out of the vein into which it is injected, it may damage some tissues and cause scarring. Tell the doctor or nurse right away if you notice redness, pain, or swelling at the injection site.
Carmustine may increase risk of lung problems while smoking.
If you plan to have children, talk with your doctor before using carmustine. Some men using carmustine have become infertile (unable to have children).
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
Carmustine side effects
Along with its needed effects, medicines like carmustine can sometimes cause some unwanted effects such as blood problems, loss of hair, and other side effects; these are described below. Also, because of the way these medicines act on the body, there is a chance that they might cause other unwanted effects that may not occur until months or years after the medicine is used. These delayed effects may include certain types of cancer, such as leukemia. Discuss these possible effects with your doctor.
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- pain or redness at the injection site
- trouble breathing
- Black, tarry stools
- blood in the urine or stools
- cough or hoarseness, accompanied by fever or chills
- fever or chills
- flushing of the face
- lower back or side pain, accompanied by fever or chills
- painful or difficult urination, accompanied by fever or chills
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- sores in the mouth or on the lips
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- Decrease in urination
- swelling of the feet or lower legs
Incidence not known
- Abdominal or stomach pain, severe
- bleeding gums
- bone pain
- chest pain
- cloudy urine
- dark urine
- decreased frequency or amount of urine
- difficulty with swallowing
- dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- dry mouth
- fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- feeling of warmth
- hives, itching, or skin rash
- increased blood pressure
- increased thirst
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- pain in the lower back or side
- pale skin
- puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
- redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
- sore throat
- swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs
- swollen glands
- tightness in the chest
- troubled breathing with exertion
- weight gain
- yellow eyes or skin
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- discoloration of the skin along the injection site
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about carmustine
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- En Español
- Drug class: alkylating agents
- Patient Information
- Carmustine Implantation (Advanced Reading)
- Carmustine Injection
- Carmustine Intracranial Implant
Related treatment guides
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.