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Amsacrine (Amsidine, m-AMSA)

Find out what amsacrine is, how you have it and other important information about having amsacrine.

Amsacrine is a chemotherapy drug and is also called amsidine or m-AMSA.

It is used to treat some types of: 

  • lymphoma 
  • acute adult leukaemia

How it works

One of the ways amsacrine works is by blocking an enzyme called topoisomerase 2. If this enzyme is blocked the cell's DNA gets tangled up and the cell can't split into 2 new cancer cells.

Amsacrine also works as an alkylating agent. This is a type of chemotherapy drug that works by sticking to one of the cancer cell's DNA strands.

How you have it

You have amsacrine into your bloodstream (intravenously). It is a red liquid. 

Drugs into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm or hand. 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

You usually have chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment.

You may have amsacrine daily for between 3 and 5 days, every 3 to 4 weeks. The chemotherapy drip usually takes an hour. 


You have blood tests before 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

Find out about possible side effects of amsacrine and what to do if you have them.

Important information

Other medicines, food 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're having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


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.


Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through into 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.


Having immunisations 

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and the shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine (as an injection)

Contact with others who have had immunisations 

You can be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections. Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as the oral typhoid vaccine.

If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray. This is for 2 weeks following their vaccination.

Babies have the live rotavirus vaccine. The virus is in the baby’s poo for about 2 weeks and could make you ill if your immunity is low. Get someone else to change their nappies during this time if you can. If this isn't possible, wash your hands well after changing their nappy.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA).

You can report any side effect you have to the MHRA as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help