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Daunorubicin

Find out what daunorubicin is, how you have it and other important information about taking this drug.

Daunorubicin is a chemotherapy drug, it is used to treat acute leukaemias.

How daunorubicin works

Daunorubicin is a type of chemotherapy called an anti tumour antibiotic. It blocks an enzyme called topoisomerase 2, so the cancer cell's DNA gets tangled up and the cell can't split into 2 new cells.

Daunorubicin also produces chemicals that are toxic to cancer cells.

How you have daunorubicin

You have daunorubicin into your bloodstream. It is a red liquid.

Into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

You have the drug injected into a fast running drip connected to your cannula or central line over about 10 minutes. 

When you have daunorubicin

You usually have daunorubicin chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment. How often and when you have it depends on which type of leukaemia you have.

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Find out about possible side effects of daunorubicin and what to do if you have them.

Important information

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Women should use effective contraception during treatment. Men should use effective contraception during treatment and for 6 months afterwards.

Loss of fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine
  • be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, you mustn't change their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination.

You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.

More information about this treatment

We haven't listed all the very rare side effects of this treatment. For further information see the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have that isn’t listed here to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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