Vindesine (Eldisine) | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

What vindesine is

Vindesine is a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancers including

  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children
  • Melanoma
  • Advanced breast cancer

Vindesine has the brand name Eldisine. It belongs to a group of drugs called vinca alkaloids. These drugs are often called plant alkaloids because the first of these drugs was developed from the periwinkle plant (vinca).


How vindesine works

Vindesine works by stopping cancer cells from separating into two new cells. So it blocks the growth of the cancer. It is a type of chemotherapy drug called a microtubule inhibitor.


How you have vindesine

Vindesine is a clear liquid. You have it into your bloodstream (intravenously). You can have it through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment. Or you may have it through a central line, a portacath, or a PICC line. These are long, plastic tubes that give the drugs directly into a large vein in your chest. You have the tube put in before or during your course of treatment and it stays in place as long as you need it.

You can read our information about having chemotherapy into a vein.

You usually have vindesine chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment. The treatment plan depends on which type of cancer you have. You may have weekly injections.


Tests during treatment

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


About side effects

We've listed the side effects associated with vindesine. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect. Where there is no link, please go to our information about cancer drug side effects or use the search box at the top of the page.

You may have a few side effects. They may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment. Or more side effects may develop as the course goes on. This depends on

  • How many times you've had the drug before
  • Your general health
  • The amount of the drug you have (the dose)

The side effects may be different if you are having vindesine with other medicines.

Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if any of the side effects get severe.


Common side effects

More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of the side effects listed below.

  • An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or you may feel cold and shivery. If you have a severe infection this can be life threatening. Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these effects or if your temperature goes above 38°C
  • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion
  • Bruising more easily due to a drop in platelets – you may have nosebleeds, or bleeding gums after brushing your teeth. Or you may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechiae)
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) during and after treatment. Most people find their energy levels are back to normal from 6 months to a year after their treatment finishes
  • Hair thinning or hair loss may happen about 3 to 4 weeks after treatment starts – it is temporary and your hair will grow back when treatment ends
  • Numbness and tingling in fingers and toes (peripheral neuropathy) may cause problems doing fiddly things, such as doing up buttons. This often goes back to normal when the treatment ends. For some people it may be long term
  • Constipation and abdominal pain can be a problem but is generally prevented with regular laxatives. If you are constipated for more than 3 days, tell your doctor or nurse
  • Women may stop having periods (amenorrhoea) but this may only be temporary
  • 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

Occasional side effects

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these.


Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these.

  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Dizziness – let your doctor or nurse know if you have this. Avoid driving or using machinery
  • Hearing loss – you may find that you can't hear some sounds. Let your doctor or nurse know

Important points to remember

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.

Other medicines

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.

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 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 drug may come through in the breast milk.


Immunisations and chemotherapy

You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having chemotherapy or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your chemotherapy. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.

It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.


More information about vindesine

This page doesn't list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at

Rate this page:
Submit rating
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 8 October 2015