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Gemcitabine and capecitabine (GemCap)

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

GemCap is the name of a chemotherapy treatment made up of the following drugs: 

  • gemcitabine
  • capecitabine

It is a treatment for cancer of the pancreas. You may also have it for other types of cancer as part of research. 

How it works

These chemotherapy drugs destroy quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

How you have it

You have gemcitabine as a drip into your bloodstream (intravenously). It takes about 30 minutes each time you have it. 

Capecitabine is a tablet you take twice a day, after food. 

Drugs 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.

Taking your tablets or capsules

You must take tablets and capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

Never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.

When you have it

You usually have GemCap chemotherapy in cycles of treatment which last 28 days (4 weeks).  

You have each cycle of treatment in the following way: 

Day 1
  • You have gemcitabine as a drip into your bloodstream over 30 minutes
  • You take capecitabine tablets twice a day
Day 2 to 7
  • You take capecitabine tablets twice a day
Day 8
  • You have gemcitabine as a drip into your bloodstream over 30 minutes
  • You take capecitabine tablets twice a day
Day 9 to 14
  • You take capecitabine tablets twice a day
Day 15
  • You have gemcitabine as a drip into your bloodstream over 30 minutes
  • You take capecitabine tablets twice a day
Day 16 to 21
  • You take capecitabine tablets twice a day
Day 22 to 28
  • You have no treatment

You then start the next treatment cycle. You usually have 6 treatment cycles. It takes over 6 months. 

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.

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

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.

Last reviewed: 
30 Dec 2014
  • Electronic Medicines Compendium 
    Accessed December 2014

  • Influenza vaccines in immunosuppressed adults with cancer
    Noa Eliakim-Raz and others
    Cochrane Database of systematic reviews, 29 October 2013

  • Consensus report of the International Society of Gastrointestinal Oncology on therapeutic progress in advanced pancreatic cancer

    H. S. Hochster and others. Cancer, July 2006

  • Combining gemcitabine and capecitabine in patients with advanced biliary cancer: a phase II trial.

    JJ. Knox and others. Journal of clinical oncology, April 2005

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