Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 12, 2022.
Pentostatin should be administered under the supervision of a physician qualified and experienced in the use of cancer chemotherapeutic agents. The use of doses higher than those specified is not recommended. Dose-limiting severe renal, liver, pulmonary, and CNS toxicities occurred in Phase 1 studies that used pentostatin at higher doses (20 to 50 mg/m(2) in divided doses over 5 days) than recommended. In a clinical investigation in patients with refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia using pentostatin at the recommended dose in combination with fludarabine phosphate, 4 of 6 patients entered in the study had severe or fatal pulmonary toxicity. The use of pentostatin in combination with fludarabine phosphate is not recommended .
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
- Powder for Solution
Therapeutic Class: Antineoplastic Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Antimetabolite
Uses for pentostatin
Pentostatin belongs to the group of medicines called antimetabolites. It is used to treat a type of cancer of the white blood cells called hairy cell leukemia. Pentostatin may be used in patients with hairy cell leukemia who have already been treated with other medicines (e.g., alpha-interferon) that did not work well.
Pentostatin interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal body cells may also be affected by pentostatin, other effects may also occur. Some of these may be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Other effects 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 pentostatin, you and your doctor should talk about the good pentostatin will do as well as the risks of using it.
Pentostatin is to be administered only by or under the immediate supervision of your doctor.
Before using pentostatin
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 pentostatin, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to pentostatin 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 have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of pentostatin in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
No information is available on the relationship of age to the effects of pentostatin in geriatric patients.
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 pentostatin, 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 pentostatin 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 pentostatin 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
- Pegademase Bovine
- Poliovirus Vaccine, Live
- Smallpox Vaccine
- Typhoid Vaccine, Live
- 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 pentostatin. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Bone marrow problems (e.g., anemia, neutropenia, or thrombocytopenia) or
- Hypotension (low blood pressure) or
- Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
- Chickenpox (including recent exposure) or
- Herpes zoster (shingles)—Risk of severe disease affecting other parts of the body.
- Gout, history of or
- Kidney stones, history of—Pentostatin may increase levels of uric acid in the body, which can cause gout or kidney stones.
- Infection—Pentostatin may decrease your body's ability to fight infection.
- Kidney disease—Use with caution. The effects of pentostatin may be increased because of slower removal from the body.
Proper use of pentostatin
Pentostatin often causes nausea and vomiting. However, 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.
You will receive pentostatin while you are in a hospital or cancer treatment center. A nurse or other trained health professional will give you pentostatin.
Pentostatin is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.
Precautions while using pentostatin
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that pentostatin is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Using pentostatin while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
You should not use pentostatin if you are also taking fludarabine (Fludara®). Taking it together with pentostatin may increase the chance of serious side effects.
While you are being treated with pentostatin, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccinations) without your doctor's approval. Pentostatin may lower your body's resistance and there is a chance you might get the infection the immunization is meant to prevent. In addition, other persons living in your household should not take oral polio vaccine since there is a chance they could pass the polio virus on to you. Also, avoid persons who have taken oral polio vaccine. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you cannot take these precautions, you should consider wearing a protective face mask that covers the nose and mouth.
Pentostatin can lower the number of white blood cells in your blood temporarily, increasing the chance of getting an infection (e.g., pneumonia). 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 you develop a skin rash or any allergic reaction to pentostatin, stop using the medicine and check with your doctor as soon as possible.
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.
Pentostatin side effects
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.
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Some side effects will have signs or symptoms that you can see or feel. Your doctor may watch for others by doing certain tests.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Cough or hoarseness
- fever or chills
- lower back or side pain
- painful or difficult urination
- skin rash or itching (sudden)
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- Anxiety or nervousness
- black, tarry stools
- blood in the urine or stools
- changes in vision
- chest pain
- cramps in lower legs
- mental depression
- numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- shortness of breath
- sore, red eyes
- sores in the mouth or on the lips
- stomach pain
- swelling of the feet or lower legs
- trouble with sleeping
- unusual bleeding or bruising
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:
- loss of appetite
- muscle pain
- nausea and vomiting
- skin rash
- Back pain
- bloating or gas
- dry skin
- general feeling of discomfort or illness
- joint pain
- weight loss
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 pentostatin
- Side effects
- Drug interactions
- Dosage information
- During pregnancy
- En español
- Drug class: antibiotics/antineoplastics
- Other brands
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