Find out what etoposide is, how you have it and other important information about taking etoposide.
Etoposide is a chemotherapy drug and is also known by its brand name, Eposin, Etopophos or Vepesid.
It is a treatment for several different types of cancer.
How it works
DNA is the genetic code that is in the nucleus of all animal and plant cells. It controls everything the cell does.
Etoposide works by blocking an enzyme (called topoisomerase 2) which is necessary for cancer cells to divide and so grow into 2 new cells. If this enzyme is blocked, the cell's DNA gets tangled up and the cell can't divide.
How you have it
You can have etoposide into your bloodstream (Eposin or Etopophos).
Or you can have etoposide as capsules (Vepesid). You have the capsules on an empty stomach.
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.
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.
When you have etoposide
You take the capsules each day, usually for 5 consecutive days every 3 weeks. If you have the drug into your bloodstream you usually have it as a course of several cycles of treatment.
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.
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 6 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 into your breast milk.
Loss of fertility
This treatment might stop you being able to father a child.
Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.
You may be able to store sperm before starting treatment.
Usually, fertility returns to normal after a few months or sometimes years. You can have sperm counts to check your fertility when your treatment is over. Ask your doctor about it.
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 if your immune system is severely weakened.
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.