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Cytarabine

Generic Name: cytarabine (sye TAR a been)
Brand Name: Cytosar-U, Tarabine PFS, Cytosar
Dosage Forms: injectable solution (100 mg/mL; 20 mg/mL)

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Dec 4, 2020. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is cytarabine?

Cytarabine is used together with other cancer drugs to treat certain types of leukemia (blood cancers).

Cytarabine is also used to treat or prevent leukemia associated with meningitis. Cytarabine will not treat a meningitis infection.

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

Warnings

Cytarabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or new signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches).

Cytarabine can cause serious side effects on your brain or central nervous system that may not be reversible. Tell your doctor if you have feel confused or have any unusual thoughts or behavior.

Before taking this medicine

You should not be treated with cytarabine if you are allergic to it.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Cytarabine may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

You should not breastfeed while you are receiving cytarabine.

How is cytarabine given?

Cytarabine is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein, under the skin, or into the space around the spinal cord. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Cytarabine is usually given for only a few days at a time. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

After receiving an injection, you will be watched closely to make sure you do not have serious side effects.

Cytarabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection. You will need frequent medical tests.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your cytarabine 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 receiving cytarabine?

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

Cytarabine side effects

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

Cytarabine can cause serious side effects on your brain or central nervous system that may not be reversible. Cytarabine is usually given together with steroid medicine to help lessen these side effects.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe drowsiness, confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior;

  • fever, chills, body aches, feeling very ill;

  • stomach pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, bloody or tarry stools;

  • loss of movement in any part of your body;

  • liver problems--loss of appetite, right-sided upper stomach pain, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • low platelets or red blood cells--pale skin, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, tiredness, feeling light-headed, cold hands and feet;

  • lung problems--pain when you breathe, shortness of breath while lying down, cough with foamy mucus; or

  • signs of eye infection--swelling, redness, severe discomfort, crusting or drainage;

Your cancer treatments may be delayed or permanently discontinued if you have certain side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • liver problems;

  • fever;

  • bleeding;

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea;

  • mouth sores;

  • rectal pain or sores;

  • rash; or

  • bruising where medicine was injected.

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.

Cytarabine dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia:

Induction as part of combination chemotherapy:
100 mg/m2/day by continuous IV infusion (Days 1 through 7) or 100 mg/m2 IV every 12 hours (Days 1 through 7)

Use: Acute lymphocytic leukemia

Usual Adult Dose for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia:

The literature and/or local protocol should be consulted.

Use: Acute lymphocytic leukemia

Usual Adult Dose for Meningeal Leukemia:

The dose ranges from 5 mg/m2 to 75 mg/m2 intrathecally once a day for 4 days to once every 4 days (30 mg/m2 every 4 days until cerebrospinal fluid findings are normal, followed by one additional treatment is the most frequently used dose)

Comments:
-Only the preservative free formulation of this drug should be administered intrathecally.

Use: Meningeal leukemia

Usual Pediatric Dose for Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia:

Induction as part of combination chemotherapy:
100 mg/m2/day by continuous IV infusion (Days 1 through 7) or 100 mg/m2 IV every 12 hours (Days 1 through 7)

Comments:
-Children appear to tolerate higher doses of this drug than adults, and where the range of doses is given, children should receive the higher dose.

Use: Acute lymphocytic leukemia

Usual Pediatric Dose for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia:

The literature and/or local protocol should be consulted.

Use: Acute lymphocytic leukemia

Usual Pediatric Dose for Meningeal Leukemia:

The dose ranges from 5 mg/m2 to 75 mg/m2 intrathecally once a day for 4 days to once every 4 days (30 mg/m2 every 4 days until cerebrospinal fluid findings are normal, followed by one additional treatment is the most frequently used dose)

Comments:
-Children appear to tolerate higher doses of this drug than adults, and where the range of doses is given, children should receive the higher dose.
-Only the preservative free formulation of this drug should be administered intrathecally.

Use: Meningeal leukemia

What other drugs will affect cytarabine?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may affect cytarabine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Frequently asked questions

Further information

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

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