Does Campath have any serious side effects?
Like many other forms of cancer treatment, Campath has been associated with some serious, sometimes fatal, side effects.
Side effects have included the following:
- Serious reductions in the number of certain types of blood cells in the body, called "cytopenias," can result in bleeding, easy bruising, occurrence of small reddish or purple blood spots on the body ("petechiae" or "purpura"), paleness, weakness, or fatigue
- Infusion reactions after receiving therapy, such as fever, chills, nausea, rash, and other reactions, which have been fatal in rare cases among previously treated patients who had relapsed
- Weakening of the immune system that has led to serious infections, including pneumonia and herpes virus infections; in rare cases, these infections were fatal
Although monoclonal antibodies, such as Campath, are targeted to attack cancerous blood cells, they can also affect some noncancerous (healthy) cells. Because some of these healthy cells are part of the immune system and help the body fight infection, the risk of infection will be increased during and after Campath therapy. Certain infections can be severe and even fatal. The doctor will prescribe medications to help prevent infections, and it is important for the patient to take these medications exactly as prescribed. The doctor will continue to monitor the patient's blood counts after therapy in order to know when these medications can safely be stopped.
How can Campath affect noncancerous cells?
It may temporarily reduce the number of (a) red blood cells, the loss of which can increase the risk of anemia; (b) platelets, the loss of which can increase the risk of bleeding; and (c) germ-fighting white blood cells, the loss of which can increase the risk of bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Since Campath may reduce the total number of all these blood cells, bone marrow function can be impaired, which can be a serious and even fatal disorder. Your friend's or loved one's treatment team will monitor their blood counts closely during and after Campath therapy to help avoid these complications.
Patient counseling information
Some patients have reactions (such as chills or fever, or more serious reactions, such as heart problems), called "infusion-related" side effects, when they receive their Campath treatments in the doctor's office or clinic. Since the doctor knows this, he or she may help to lessen these effects by giving medications before the treatments. Medicines such as Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) or Tylenol® (acetaminophen) may help avoid or reduce allergic reactions and chills/fever. Side effects involving the circulatory system have been fatal in some cases. To help avoid serious reactions, the doctor may prescribe a medication like hydrocortisone. There may be side effects later in the evening after a treatment. The doctor or nurse will provide instructions on what to do if this happens. Some side effects may be severe, so it is important to tell the medical team as soon as your friend or loved one begins to experience them, no matter when they occur.
In clinical studies, most infusion-related side effects were mild to moderate and were more common during the first week of treatment. Chills (rigors), fever, nausea, vomiting, and low blood pressure are common during Campath treatment and may occur while the patient is receiving an infusion. These effects can be lessened with premedication, as well as gradual dose escalation.
Symptoms such as bleeding, easy bruising, occurrence of small reddish or purple blood spots on the body ("petechiae" or "purpura"), paleness, weakness, or fatigue, should be reported to the doctor.
Any symptoms of infection should be immediately reported to the doctor.
Other reported side effects include rash, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, diarrhea, hives, headache, loss of appetite, itching, sweating, dizziness, and abdominal pain.