Home All OthersDiseases and Conditions Cytarabine (Cytosar, Cytosar-U, Ara-C)

Cytarabine (Cytosar, Cytosar-U, Ara-C)

by Mathew Marshall
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Cytarabine (Cytosar, Cytosar-U, Ara-C)

Warning: Cytarabine has been known to cause serious blood disorders. Although this is rarely fatal, it does induce bone marrow suppression which in turn leads to anemia (a low count of white blood cells and platelets.) It has also been known to induce liver problems. Treatments with this medication require close doctor supervision.

It is important for the patient to inform the doctor immediately if, during the treatment or after, he develops strange symptoms including any signs of infection, nausea, or yellowing of the eyes and skin.

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Indications: Cytarabine, which is the generic form of the brands Cytosar-U and Tarabine PFS, is a member of the chemotherapy family of drugs.  It can be prescribed as a sole treatment as well as part of a regimen of drugs to treat various forms of cancer by slowing or stopping cancer cell growth.


Dosage: Although there are several ways to administer Cytarabine depending on the medical condition of the patient, the most common method is injection into a vein as directed by your doctor.  The dosage is prescribed by your physician according to your specific medical condition and your body mass, and can be adjusted during treatment to account for the success of the response to the therapy.

Patients can administer this drug themselves in their own homes, but before doing so, must thoroughly prepare themselves with the usage instructions from their health care professional. The first step is to check the medication by looking for floating particles or discoloration of the fluid.  In either case, do not use the dose.  You must learn to store this medication properly, as well as dispose of it appropriately if need be.  Although some doctors make exceptions, be sure to drink plenty of fluids during treatment.  This is important to allow the kidneys to filter the medication from your body and can help lessen the magnitude of the side effects.

Overdose: cytarabine is administered in hospital by professionals; the risk of overdose is virtually nonexistent. In case that accidental overdose happens, immediate medical attention is required. Cytarabine overdose may cause severe and even fatal health problems. There is no unique treatment for Cytarabine overdose; treatment is symptomatic and close monitoring.

Missing dose: the fact that Cytarabine is administered in hospital, it is basically difficult for you to miss a dose if you respect your doctor appointment. If for some reasons you cannot be present at the hospital for the therapy, contact your oncologist before the date scheduled for the treatment. Do not discontinue the therapy because you experience side effects; side effects do not mean the drug does not work you. In fact, most patients being treated with Cytarabine develop adverse effects.

Mechanism of action (MOA): Cytarabine works by selectively inhibiting DNA synthesis. Once their DNAs are damaged, cancer cells (also healthy normal) which require DNA to reproduce become unable to multiply. Unfortunately some rapidly dividing healthy cells are damaged by Cytarabine.

Contraindications: Contraindications of this drug include possible allergic reactions, as well as the existence of any preconditions of bone marrow function or blood disorders.  Patients must not receive immunizations preceding or during treatment, or associate closely with people who have received the oral polio vaccine during this period.

Interactions: There are several important side effects of Cytarabine that are not listed in this document.  Allow your physician and pharmacist to make the proper determinations by providing each with a current list of the medications you are taking.  This includes over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions, and herbal products.  Be sure that the list reflects your actual drug usage by not altering the dosages in any way during the treatment.  Specifically, this drug may interact with digoxin, flucytosine, or gentamicin.

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Talk you to your doctor before taking vitamins, nutritional supplements, or St. John wort. Some drugs can alter the effects of Cytarabine and increased risk of developing side effects. Consult your doctor before taking the following medicines:

  • vaccins
  • Ganciclovir, an antiviral drug
  • Amphotericin B, a polyene antifungal drug
  • Azathioprine, an immune system inhibitor
  • Digoxin, a medication used in the treatment of several heart conditions
  • Plicamycin, a chemotherapy used to stop the growth of cancer cells
  • Amiodarone, a medication used to treat irregular heart beat
  • Barbiturates, depressant drug that causes relaxation and sleepiness
  • Cimetidine, a drug used to inhibit the production of acid in the stomach
  • Colchicines, a medication used to treat pain associated with gouty arthritis
  • Cyclophosphamide(Cytoxan), a medication of the alkylating agent family used to treat a variety of cancers
  • Cyclophosphamide(Cytoxan, Cytoxan, Neosar, Procytox, Revimmune), a drug used to treat several types of cancers.

Side effects:  by attacking the cancer cells, Cytarabine also attack some normal cells that multiply quickly, which can cause various adverse effects. Most common Cytarabine side effects include:

  • joint pain
  • hair loss
  • headache
  • weakness
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Cramp or tingling in the hands or feet.

Cytarabine can cause serious side effects which require medical attention; contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

·         painful urination

·         bloody urine

·         muscle weakness

·         persistent cough and sore throat

·         abdominal pain

·         blurred vision

·         black, tarry stools

·         unusual bruising or bleeding

·         yellowing of the skin or eyes

·         swelling and pain at the injection site

·         Fever, which can be a sign of infection

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