Vinorelbine (Navelbine) | Cancer Research UK
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What vinorelbine is

Vinorelbine is a chemotherapy drug that has the brand name Navelbine. It is a treatment for 

  • Advanced breast cancer
  • Non small cell lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma (cancer of the outer covering of the lung)

How vinorelbine works

Vinorelbine belongs to the group of drugs called vinca alkaloids. These are often called plant alkaloids because the first of these drugs was developed from the periwinkle plant (vinca). They are a type of drug called microtubule inhibitors. This describes the way they work in damaging cancer cells. Vinorelbine stops the cancer cells from separating into two new cells. So it blocks the growth of the cancer.


How you have vinorelbine

You may have vinorelbine into a vein or as capsules. You usually have vinorelbine chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment. The treatment plan depends on which type of cancer you have. 

Vinorelbine into a vein

Vinorelbine is a pale yellow 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.

Vinorelbine capsules

Vinorelbine comes as capsules of 20mg, 30mg and 80mg. You swallow them with plenty of water, and ideally with something to eat. Don't chew or suck the capsules because the drug could make your mouth sore if it leaks out. If you do this accidentally, rinse your mouth out over and over again with clean water and contact your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. Don't take the capsules with a hot drink as this can make them dissolve too quickly.

It is very important that you take the capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you. For example, whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream. You should take the right dose, not more or less. And never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.


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 vinorelbine. 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 vinorelbine 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
  • 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 ends
  • Constipation can be a problem in about 1 in 3 people (30%). It is generally prevented with regular laxatives. If you are constipated for more than 3 days, tell your doctor or nurse
  • Feeling or being sick is usually moderate, is most likely to come on within the first 24 hours after treatment, and is easily controlled with anti sickness injections and tablets. Tell your doctor or nurse if your sickness is not controlled as you can try other anti sickness medicines
  • Vinorelbine can cause pain along the vein where you have the injection. Tell the person giving the drug as they can help by flushing the drug through with more fluid
  • Inflammation around the drip siteif you notice any signs of redness, pain, swelling or leaking at your drip site, tell your chemotherapy nurse straight away
  • Vinorelbine can cause darkening or discoloration of the vein where you have the injection
  • Hair loss, or more usually thinning, happens to about 1 in 10 people (10%)
  • A sore mouth or mouth ulcers
  • Leg weakness
  • Temporary numbness and tingling in fingers and toes (peripheral neuropathy) can happen but is usually mild
  • Liver changes that are very mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. They will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment is finished
  • 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 this treatment. 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.

  • Diarrhoeacontact your doctor or nurse straight away and they will give you anti diarrhoea tablets
  • Bruising or bleeding more easily due to a drop in the number of platelets in the blood – 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)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Taste changes
  • Skin rashes
  • A high temperature
  • Chest pain
  • Pain in the area of the cancer
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Eyesight changes
  • Pain when passing urine – let your doctor or nurse know if you have this

Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these effects.

  • An allergic reaction to vinorelbine – tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have a sudden cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Signs of severe infection such as a cough, high temperature, or breathing problems – tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have this
  • Difficulty moving and loss of sense of touch
  • Dizziness or feeling faint due to low blood pressure
  • High blood pressure leading to headaches
  • A cold feeling in the hands and feet

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 at least 3 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 on vinorelbine

This page does not 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

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Updated: 24 July 2015