Capecitabine, or Xeloda - uses, side-effects, warnings

Capecitabine, or Xeloda - uses, side-effects, warnings

This patient-friendly article is about chemotherapy drug, Capecitabine (Xeloda), which is a treatment for women with advanced breast cancer who have not responded well to chemotherapy with other agents such as Taxol or Adriamycin; it is also used with colorectal cancer and is taken orally.

Capecitabine is the 'pro-drug' of 5-FU (Fluorouracil) and targets tumour cells, with the manufacturer claiming it leaves healthy cells relatively unharmed. Each tablet contains a toxic agent Fluorouracil (5-FU), which is activated only when it reaches the site of the tumour by an enzyme found at high levels in cancer cells but low levels in healthy cells. Clinical trials have shown that it can prolong the lives of women whose cancer has spread to other organs.  It is also used with gastro-intestinal tumours, or colorectal cancer. 

5- Fluorouracil was approved by the FDA in 1956. 5FU and capecitabine belong to a group of drugs called fluoropyrimidines.

Approved by

the Medical Board. 

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Side effects of Capecitabine: can include diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, mouth and throat sores, decreased appetite, skin rash, dehydration.

Capecitabine Warning: In particular, bleeding can occur, especially if you are taking blood thinners and particularly Warfarin.

Since the 'active' ingredient of Capecitabine is 5-FU, readers should read our review of 5-FU,  the report on cardiotoxicity from the American College of Cardiologists and the issue of DPD are particularly interesting.

According to Medscape in the USA, while 80% of patients have an enzyme in their livers called Dihydropyrimidine Dehydrogenase which can detoxify the drug, the remainder (1 in 5 people) have a deficiency and approximately 5% (1 in 20) have a total lack.  This can cause 'Life-threatening toxicity'. These people must not be given capecitabine and every patient should have a cheap and simple test before using the drug.

In the USA there is a simple test by Labcorp costing under $100; in the UK Cancer Research admits there is no regular testing done claiming that only 2-3% have the deficiency and, anyway, these people have symptoms (for example, fitting). Since we published the American reports, CRUK have now changed their view to 'complete deficiency is very rare; some deficiency is present in 2-8% of people.

There is increasing and convincing evidence that curcumin, or turmeric, can improve the effectiveness of 5-FU (and thus Capecitabine) while protecting healthy cells

Go to: Curcumin can increase effectiveness of certain chemo drugs 

Go to: 10 ways to improve your chemotherapy success and reduce side-effects

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Other articles that you may find interesting are:

  1. A diet for Chemotherapy
  2. Immunotherapy overview
  3. A to Z Guide to Complementary Therapies

Go to: Return to the CANCERactive drug list

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