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Vandetanib (Caprelsa)

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

What is it

Vandetanib is a targeted cancer drug (biological therapy) and is also known by its brand name Caprelsa.

It is a treatment for advanced medullary thyroid cancer. This means that the cancer can't be removed by surgery, or has spread to other parts of the body.

You might also have it as part of a clinical trial for other types cancer, including other types of thyroid cancer.

How it works

Vandetanib is a type of biological therapy called a cancer growth blocker. It stops signals (chemical messengers) that cancer cells use to divide and grow. 

How you have it

You take vandetanib as tablets. You swallow them whole, with water. It can be with or without food.

You have vandetanib once a day. You can choose the best time to take it. But you should take it at about the same time every day.

Taking your tablets

You must take tablets 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.

Dissolving vandetanib

You can dissolve the tablets in still water if you find it difficult to swallow. Drop the tablet into half a glass of water without crushing it (don't use any other type of liquid).

Stir until it has dissolved, this may take 10 to 15 minutes. Then drink the liquid straight away. Refill the glass halfway with water and drink it to make sure you have had all the medicine. 

When you forget to take vandetanib

Take it straight away if less than 12 hours have passed. 

Do not take the tablets if it has been more than 12 hours. Take your next tablets at the usual time the next day. 

When you have it

You usually carry on taking vandetanib for as long as it works. 

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.

You might also have tests to check the health of your heart, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG). Ask your doctor which tests you might have. 

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 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 4 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


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.


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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