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Find out what FOLFIRINOX is, how you have it and other important information about having FOLFIRINOX.

FOLFIRINOX is the name of a combination of chemotherapy drugs used to treat advanced cancer of the pancreas. It is made up of the drugs:

  • FOL - Folinic acid (also called leucovorin, calcium folinate or FA)
  • F - Fluorouracil (also called 5FU)
  • Irin - Irinotecan
  • Ox - Oxaliplatin

How it works

The chemotherapy drugs in FOLFIRINOX destroy quickly dividing cells such as cancer cells.

How you have FOLFIRINOX

You have FOLFIRINOX into your bloodstream.

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.

When you have FOLFIRINOX

You usually have FOLFIRINOX chemotherapy as cycles of treatment. Each cycle of treatment lasts 2 weeks. Depending on your needs, you may have up to 12 cycles, taking 6 months in total.

You have each cycle of treatment in the following way.

  • You have oxaliplatin as a drip for 2 hours
  • Immediately afterwards you have leucovorin as a drip for 2 hours
  • 30 minutes after the leucovorin starts you have irinotecan for 90 minutes, alongside the leucovorin
  • Then you have an fluorouracil by injection into the tube in your vein
  • Then you have another drip of fluorouracil for 46 hours (2 days) given by a small portable pump
  • For the next 11 days you have no treatment

You then start the next treatment cycle.

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

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. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


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

Treatment for other conditions

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


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 shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

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, avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.

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

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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