Cabozantinib is a type of targeted cancer drug. You might have it as a treatment for:
- kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced kidney cancer)
- a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid cancer that has started to grow outside the thyroid or that has spread to other parts of the body
How you have cabozantinib
You take cabozantinib as tablets or capsules that you swallow whole, every day. You doctor can tell you how many tablets or capsules you need to take every day. It depends on your individual needs.
Taking your tablets or capsules
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.
Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.
Usually you do not eat anything for at least 2 hours before taking the tablets or capsules, through to 1 hour after taking them.
When you take cabozantinib
You usually take cabozantinib for as long as it helps you and the side effects aren’t too bad.
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.
We haven't listed all the side effects. It's very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you're also having other drugs or radiotherapy.
When to contact your team
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:
- you have severe side effects
- your side effects aren’t getting any better
- your side effects are getting worse
Early treatment can help manage side effects better.
Common side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 10 people (10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.
Increased risk of infection
Increased risk of getting an infection is due to a drop in white blood cells. Symptoms include a change in temperature, aching muscles, headaches, feeling cold and shivery and generally unwell. You might have other symptoms depending on where the infection is.
Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your advice line urgently if you think you have an infection.
Bruising, bleeding gums or nose bleeds
This is due to a drop in the number of platelets in your blood. These blood cells help the blood to clot when we cut ourselves. 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 petechia).
Lower levels of thyroid hormones
The level of your thyroid hormones may drop (hypothyroidism). You may feel tired or cold, gain weight, feel sad or depressed, or your voice may deepen. You will have regular blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Dehydration means there isn't enough fluid in your body. You might find you aren't passing much urine and the colour is a very dark yellow. Your skin might be very dry and you might feel dizzy. So make sure you drink around 2 litres of fluids every day. Tell your nurse or doctor if you are not able to drink this much fluid.
Loss of appetite and weight loss
You might not feel like eating and may lose weight. It is important to eat as much as you can. Eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day can be easier to manage. You can talk to a dietitian if you are concerned about your appetite or weight loss.
Changes in blood sugar levels
You have regular blood and urine tests to check this. If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood sugar levels more often than usual.
Changes in the levels of minerals in your body
Your blood contains different levels of minerals, electrolytes and proteins. This treatment can change the levels of calcium, phosphate, albumin, magnesium, sodium, potassium, creatinine, cholesterol and bilirubin in your blood.
Numbness of fingers and toes
Numbness or tingling in fingers or toes is often temporary and can improve after you finish treatment. Talk to the team looking after you when you first notice this.
Taste changes may make you go off certain foods and drinks. You may also find that some foods taste different from usual or that you prefer to eat spicier foods. Your taste gradually goes back to normal a few weeks after your treatment finishes.
Headaches and dizziness
Let your doctor or nurse know if you have headaches. They can give you painkillers. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you feel dizzy.
High blood pressure
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have headaches, nose bleeds, blurred or double vision or shortness of breath. Your nurse will check your blood pressure regularly.
You may have difficulty breathing with wheezing and coughing. Let your doctor or nurse know straight away if this happens.
Feeling or being sick
Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques, can all help.
It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.
Diarrhoea or constipation
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have diarrhoea or constipation. They can give you medicine to help.
Mouth sores and ulcers can be painful. Keep your mouth and teeth clean; drink plenty of fluids; avoid acidic foods such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits; chew gum to keep the mouth moist and tell your doctor or nurse if you have ulcers.
Tummy (abdominal) cramps
Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help.
Indigestion or heartburn
Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have indigestion or heartburn. They can prescribe medicines to help.
Soreness, redness and peeling on palms and soles of feet
The skin on your hands and feet may become sore, red, or may peel. You may also have tingling, numbness, pain and dryness. This is called hand-foot syndrome or palmar plantar syndrome.
You might notice skin changes, such as dryness, itching and rashes similar to acne on your face, neck and trunk.
Tell your doctor if you have any rashes or itching. Don't go swimming if you have a rash because the chlorine in the water can make it worse.
If your skin gets dry or itchy, using unperfumed moisturising cream may help. Check with your doctor or nurse before using any creams or lotions. Wear a high factor sun block if you’re going out in the sun.
You could lose all your hair. This includes your eyelashes, eyebrows, underarm, leg and sometimes pubic hair. Your hair will usually grow back once treatment has finished but it is likely to be softer. It may grow back a different colour or be curlier than before.
You might feel some pain from your muscles and joints or you may find your muscles spasm. You may have some pain in your lower arms and legs.
Speak to your doctor or nurse about what painkillers you can take to help with these symptoms.
Protein in your urine
Small amounts of protein in your urine may be found when your nurse tests your urine. This is not harmful.
Tiredness and weakness
You might feel very tired and as though you lack energy.
Various things can help you to reduce tiredness and cope with it, for example exercise. Some research has shown that taking gentle exercise can give you more energy. It is important to balance exercise with resting.
Inflammation of the bowel
Inflammation of the bowel can cause abdominal pain, bloating or diarrhoea. Speak to your doctor if you have these symptoms.
Occasional side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- collection of pus (abscess)
- hearing problems such as tinnitus
- blood clots which can block blood vessels in your lungs and be life threatening if not treated quickly
- inflammation of the pancreas which can cause tummy pain and feeling or being sick
- piles which can cause pain when you open your bowels
- swelling of your hands and legs due to a build up of fluid
- problems with the healing of wounds
- acid reflux
Coping with side effects
We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.
Rare side effects
Each of these effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- liver changes which are usually mild and unlikely to cause you problems
- damage to the jaw bone
- a painful tear in your anus which is called a fistula
- fits or seizures
What else do I need to know
Other medicines, foods and drinks
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.
Many medicines can react with cabozantinib.
Don’t eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while having treatment with cabozantinib. It can change the amount of cabozantinib you absorb and make the side effects worse.
This drug contains lactose. If you have been told by your doctor that you have an intolerance to some sugars, talk to your doctor before taking this medication.
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. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.
Contraception and pregnancy
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 and for at least 4 months afterwards. The drug may come through in the 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 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).
- have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- have the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- 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 oral polio or the typhoid vaccine.
This also includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s poo for up to 2 weeks and could 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 should also avoid close contact with children who have had the flu vaccine nasal spray. You should do so for 2 weeks following their vaccination if you have a severely weakened immune system.
Driving and using machines
Be careful when driving or using machines. This drug can make you feel tired or weak and can affect your ability to drive or use machines.
More 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.