Rucaparib is a type of targeted drug called a PARP inhibitor. You might have it as a treatment for:
- epithelial ovarian cancer
- fallopian tube cancer
- peritoneal cancer
Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type of ovarian cancer. Fallopian tube cancer and peritoneal cancer are similar to epithelial ovarian cancer and are treated in the same way.
Rucaparib is for people who had 2 or more treatments with platinum chemotherapy. Or whose cancer got better after treatment with platinum chemotherapy. Platinum chemotherapy includes the drugs carboplatin and cisplatin.
How rucaparib works
Rucaparib is a PARP inhibitor. PARP is a protein found in our cells, it stands for poly-ADP ribose polymerase. It helps damaged cells to repair themselves.
Rucaparib works by stopping the PARP protein from doing its repair work in cancer cells and the cell dies.
How you have rucaparib
You take rucaparib as tablets that you swallow whole, twice a day. You can take it with or without food.
Taking your tablets
You should take the right dose, not more or less.
Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.
When you have rucaparib
You usually start taking rucaparib 2 months after the last dose of platinum chemotherapy. You take it for as long as it is working 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.
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.
We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
Common side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
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.
Breathlessness and looking pale
You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.
Bruising and bleeding
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 petechiae).
Loss of appetite
You might lose your appetite for various reasons when you are having cancer treatment. Sickness, taste changes or tiredness can put you off food and drinks.
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 returns to normal a few weeks after your treatment finishes.
This is usually mild. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you have dizziness.
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.
Loose or watery poo (diarrhoea)
Contact your advice line if you have diarrhoea, such as if you've had 4 or more loose watery poos (stools) in 24 hours. Or if you can't drink to replace the lost fluid. Or if it carries on for more than 3 days.
Your doctor may give you anti diarrhoea medicine to take home with you after treatment. Eat less fibre, avoid raw fruits, fruit juice, cereals and vegetables, and drink plenty to replace the fluid lost.
Indigestion or heartburn
Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have indigestion or heartburn. They can prescribe medicines to help.
Tummy (abdominal) pain
Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help.
Skin problems include a skin rash, redness and skin sensitivity to sunlight. This usually goes back to normal when your treatment finishes.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have a skin rash. They can prescribe medicine to stop the rash and soothe your skin. It's important to cover up or use sunblock if you go out in the sun.
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.
High temperature (fever)
If you get a high temperature, let your health care team know straight away. Ask them if you can take paracetamol to help lower your temperature.
High levels of creatinine and liver enzymes in your body
You have regular blood tests during treatment to check for this.
Occasional side effects
These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- a blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome or acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Your doctor will check for this
- loss of body fluids (dehydration) which can cause a dry mouth and feeling thirsty or lightheaded
- high levels of cholesterol in the blood
- shortness of breath
- soreness, redness and peeling on palms or soles of the feet (hand foot syndrome)
Coping with side effects
We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.
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.
Loss of fertility
It is not known whether this treatment affects fertility in people. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.
Pregnancy and contraception
This treatment may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant while you are having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
It is not known whether this drug comes through into the breast milk. Doctors usually advise that you don’t breastfeed during this treatment and for 2 weeks afterwards.
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)
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 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.