Vindesine (Eldisine)

Vindesine is a type of chemotherapy. It is also known by its brand name Eldisine. You might have it as a treatment for many different types of cancer including leukaemia, melanoma and breast cancer.

This drug belongs to a group of drugs called vinca alkaloids. They are also often called plant alkaloids because the first of these drugs was developed from the periwinkle plant (vinca). 

How vindesine works

Vindesine works by stopping cancer cells from separating into 2 new cells. So it blocks the growth of the cancer.

How you have vindesine

Vindesine is a clear liquid that you have into your bloodstream (intravenously). 

Into your bloodstream

You have treatment through a thin short tube (a cannula) that goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

Or you might have treatment through a long line: a central line, a PICC line or a portacath. These are long plastic tubes that give the drug into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment.

When you have vindesine

You usually have vindesine every week. The exact number of injections you have depends on your cancer type. It takes a couple of minutes each time you have it.

Tests

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

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. 

Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have signs of infection, including a temperature above 37.5C or below 36C.

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.

You might have one or more of these side effects. 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. 

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).

Contact your advice line if you have any of these symptoms. 

Breathlessness 

You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is usually mild. 

Numbness or tingling in fingers or toes 

Numbness or tingling in fingers or toes is often temporary and can improve after you finish treatment. Tell your doctor if you're finding it difficult to walk or complete fiddly tasks such as doing up buttons. 

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.

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 

Mouth sores and ulcers can be painful. It helps to keep your mouth and teeth clean, drink plenty of fluids, avoid acidic foods such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits and chew gum to keep the mouth moist. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have ulcers.

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.

Indigestion 

Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have indigestion or heartburn. They can prescribe medicines to help.

Difficulty swallowing 

Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any problems swallowing. You might find that eating foods such as soups and stews are easier to swallow than more solid foods like meat or toast.

Pain

This treatment can cause pain in different parts of your body such as the tummy (abdomen), jaw, muscles and joints. Let your treatment team know if you have this so that they can give you painkillers.

An ulcer in the first part of your bowel

This is also called duodenal ulcer. It can cause pain in your tummy, indigestion and sickness. Some ulcers can also cause bleeding which can be serious. 

Hair loss

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. 

Skin rash and infection in the deeper layers of your skin (cellulitis) 

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have a skin rash or red, swollen and painful skin. They can prescribe medicine to stop the rash, soothe your skin and treat the infection. 

Inflammation around the injection site

Tell your nurse if you notice any signs of redness or irritation around the injection site, or if you have pain when you are having the injection.

High temperature (fever), weakness and chills

You might get a high temperature (fever), weakness and chills. Contact your doctor or nurse if you have this.

Depression 

Tell your doctor or nurse if you’re feeling depressed. They can arrange for you to talk to someone and give treatment if necessary.

Headaches 

Tell your doctor or nurse if you keep getting headaches. They can give you painkillers to help.

Fits (seizures)

Tell your doctor if you have any fits, twitching or jerking of your limbs. 

Hearing changes 

You might have some hearing loss, especially with high pitched sounds. Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice any changes.

Dizziness and loss of balance 

You might feel dizzy and you may feel as though the room is spinning. This is vertigo. Let your doctor or nurse know if this happens.

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.

Contraception and pregnancy 

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.

Breastfeeding 

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.

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 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.

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