What should I know before taking Campath?
Like many other forms of cancer treatment, Campath has been associated with serious, sometimes fatal, side effects.
Side effects have included the following:
- Serious reductions in the number of certain types of blood cells in your body, called "cytopenias," can result in bleeding, easy bruising, occurrence of small reddish or purple blood spots on your 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 your immune system and help your body fight infection, your risk of infection will be increased during and after Campath therapy. Certain infections can be severe and even fatal. Your doctor will prescribe medications to help prevent infections, and it is important for you to take these medications exactly as your doctor prescribes.
Your doctor will continue to monitor your blood counts after therapy in order to know when these medications can safely be stopped. If you develop certain toxic conditions in your bloodstream, your doctor may elect to discontinue Campath. Campath can also be discontinued for serious infections and infusion reactions.
How can Campath affect noncancerous cells?
It may temporarily reduce the number of (a) red blood cells, the loss of which can increase your risk of anemia; (b) platelets, the loss of which can increase your risk of bleeding; and (c) germ-fighting white blood cells, the loss of which can increase your risk of bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. And since Campath may reduce the total number of all these blood cells, your bone marrow function can be impaired, which can be a serious and even fatal disorder. Your treatment team will monitor your 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. Some of these cases have been fatal. Since your doctor knows this, he or she may help to lessen these effects by giving you medications before your treatments. Medicines such as Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) or Tylenol® (acetaminophen) may help avoid or reduce allergic reactions and chills/fever. To help avoid serious reactions, your doctor may prescribe a medication like hydrocortisone. Sometimes you may have side effects later in the evening after a treatment. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what to do if this happens. Some side effects may be severe, so it is important to tell your medical team as soon as you begin 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 you are receiving an infusion. These effects can be lessened with premedication, as well as gradual dose escalation.
You should report to your doctor any symptoms such as bleeding, easy bruising, occurrence of small reddish or purple blood spots on your body ("petechiae" or "purpura"), paleness, weakness, or fatigue.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions to take premedications before your treatments to prevent infusion reactions.
You should immediately report any symptoms of infection to your doctor.
You should not be administered any blood products unless they have been irradiated while you wait for your blood cell counts to return to normal following Campath therapy.
You should not receive immunization with any live viral vaccines if you have recently been treated with Campath.
Male and female patients with reproductive potential should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months after Campath therapy.
If you are pregnant, your doctor will help you decide whether to take Campath. If you are nursing your baby, your doctor will determine whether you should stop Campath or stop nursing.
Other reported side effects include rash, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, diarrhea, hives, headache, loss of appetite, itching, sweating, dizziness, and abdominal pain.