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Ibritumomab (Zevalin)

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

Ibritumomab is also called 90Y ibritumomab tiuxetan (pronounced ib-ri-chew-mow-mab tux-ee-tan). Its brand name is Zevalin.

Ibritumomab is a treatment for some types of non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Some people have it as part of clinical trials.  

How it works

Ibritumomab is a type of monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of biological therapy. 

This drug has a radioactive substance called yttrium (pronounced it-tree-um) attached to it. It targets a protein called CD20. 

Non Hodgkin lymphoma cells have CD20 proteins on their surface. Ibritumomab sticks to all the CD20 protein it finds and delivers the radiation to these cells, which then die. Because the treatment targets the lymphoma cells, you only have a small amount of radioactive substance with each treatment. 

How you have it

You have ibritumomab as an injection or a drip into your bloodstream (intravenously). 

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.

When you have it

For lymphoma, you usually start by having a dose of a drug called rituximab. The following week, you have another dose of rituximab followed by ibritumomab. You have the ibritumomab over 10 minutes.

You usually only have 1 dose of ibritumomab. 

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

Radiation safety

After your treatment with ibritumomab, you have a small amount of radioactive substance in your bodily fluids including your urine, saliva, sperm and possibly vaginal fluids.

This lasts for about a week after treatment. 

To protect other people from the radioactivity you should wash your hands carefully after going to the toilet and clear up any spills. You, or your partner should also wear a condom during sex.

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 drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with this drug and for at least a year 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, pharmacists 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 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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