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Primary Brain Cancer Treatments

The following chemotherapy and biologic therapy drugs are used to treat primary brain cancer.

  • Temozolamide (Temodar) is an oral drug that interferes with DNA synthesis and cellular replication.
    • Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, hair loss, appetite loss, headache, constipation.
    • Less common side effects may include convulsion, severe headache, severe fatigue, low blood count, infection.
    • Rare side effects may include pneumonia due to Pneumocystis carinii organism.
  • Bevacizumab (Avastin) is given intravenously. It is an antibody protein that specifically targets angiogenesis (harmful blood vessel formation by cancer cells). It blocks a protein called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). By blocking VEGF, the drug stops the tumor from creating new blood vessels, thus limiting its supply of nutrients and stopping its growth. It may also work by making tumor vessels less leaky, allowing chemotherapy to get into cancer cells more effectively.
    • Common side effects may include high blood pressure, headache, tiredness, appetite loss.
    • Less common side effects may include nosebleed, protein in the urine, nausea, vomiting, and blood clots.
    • Rare side effects may include stroke, heart attack, brain bleed, bowel perforation, wound healing problem, severe internal bleeding, confusion, and severe allergic reaction.
  • Irinotecan (Camptosar) is given intravenously. It blocks the enzyme, topoisomerase I, which is involved in DNA repair process, and causes cancer cells to die.
    • Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, decreased blood count, appetite loss, and tiredness.
    • Less common side effects may include cholinergic syndrome (may include runny nose, increased saliva production, sweating, tearing in the eyes, flushing, abdominal cramps, diarrhea), infection, abnormal liver function.
  • Procarbazine (Mutalane) is an oral chemotherapy drug. It interferes with DNA synthesis and cellular replication.
    • Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, appetite loss.
    • Less common side effects may include low blood count, infection.
  • Lomustine (CCNU) is an oral (taken by mouth) chemotherapy drug. It interferes with DNA synthesis and cellular replication.
    • Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, hair loss, low blood count (delayed onset), and loss of appetite.
    • Rare side effects may include infection, cumulative bone marrow suppression, and lung damage.
  • Vincristine is an intravenous chemotherapy drug. It interferes with a cell division process.
    • Common side effects may include nerve damage, constipation, hair loss, tiredness, appetite loss.
    • Rare side effects include tissue damage when the drug leaks outside of blood vessel, hyponatremia, permanent nerve damage.
  • Carmustine (BCNU) is an intravenous chemotherapy drug. It interferes with DNA synthesis and cellular replication.
    • Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, hair loss, low blood count (delayed onset), and loss of appetite.
    • Rare side effects may include infection, cumulative bone marrow suppression, and lung damage.