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Generic Name: pentostatin (PEN toe stah tin)
Brand Name: Nipent

Medically reviewed by on Aug 5, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is pentostatin?

Pentostatin is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Pentostatin is used to treat hairy cell leukemia (a type of blood cancer).

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

Important Information

Pentostatin can cause harmful side effects on your kidneys, liver, lungs, or central nervous system. Call your doctor at once if you have symptoms such as: swelling, rapid weight gain, little or no urinating, pink or red urine, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, cough, vision problems, numbness, tingling, or burning pain.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use pentostatin if you are allergic to it.

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

  • kidney disease;

  • liver disease;

  • lung disease;

  • any type of infection (including pneumonia); or

  • weak immune system (caused by disease or by using certain medicines).

Do not use pentostatin if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control to avoid pregnancy during your treatment with pentostatin. Follow your doctor's instructions about how long to prevent pregnancy after your treatment ends.

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

How is pentostatin given?

Your doctor will perform blood tests to make sure you do not have conditions that would prevent you from safely receiving pentostatin.

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

You may need frequent medical tests at your doctor's office to be sure this medication is not causing harmful effects. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests. You may also need to have a bone marrow biopsy.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your pentostatin 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 pentostatin?

pentostatin 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.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using pentostatin. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Pentostatin 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.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fever, swollen glands, cold or flu symptoms, blisters or ulcers in your mouth, red or swollen gums, trouble swallowing;

  • pale skin, weakness, easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;

  • swelling, rapid weight gain, little or no urinating, pain in your side or lower back;

  • red or pink urine;

  • skin sores, severe skin rash;

  • anxiety, sweating, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, gasping for breath, chest pain, fast or uneven heart rate;

  • cough with foamy mucus, cough with yellow or green mucus;

  • eye pain, vision problems; or

  • numbness, tingling, or burning pain.

Common side effects may include:

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.

Pentostatin dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Hairy Cell Leukemia:

4 mg/m2 IV by bolus injection OR diluted in a larger volume and given over 20 to 30 minutes every other week (higher doses are not recommended)

Duration of therapy: In the absence of major toxicity and with continuing improvement, treat until complete response; although not required, the administration of 2 additional doses has been recommended following complete response.

-Patients should be hydrated with 500 to 1000 mL of 5% dextrose in 0.5 normal saline or equivalent before this drug is administered; an additional 500 mL should be administered after this drug is given.
-Assess response to therapy after 6 months.
-Continue therapy if patient achieves at least a partial response after 6 months.
-Discontinue therapy if patient has not achieved at least a partial response after 6 months.
-Discontinue therapy if patient has only a partial response after 12 months.
-Withhold therapy in patients with active infection until the infection is controlled.

Use: A single-agent treatment for both untreated and alpha-interferon-refractory hairy cell leukemia patients with active disease as defined by clinically significant anemia, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, or disease-related symptoms

What other drugs will affect pentostatin?

Tell your doctor about all medicines you use, and those you start or stop using during your treatment with pentostatin, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with pentostatin, 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 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.