Find out what vismodegib is, how you have it and other important information about taking this drug.
What is it
Vismodegib is a cancer treatment drug and is also known by its brand name, Erivedge.
It is a treatment for advanced basal cell skin cancer, which includes those that:
- have spread to another part of the body (metastatic basal cell skin cancer)
- have spread to an area nearby (locally advanced basal cell skin cancer)
- are in a place where they cannot be removed by surgery
You might also have vismodegib as part of clinical trials for other cancers.
How it works
Vismodegib is a type of targeted cancer drug (a biological therapy) called a cancer growth blocker.
Most basal cell skin cancers have a change in certain proteins (called the hedgehog pathway) that send signals within the cells. This signal makes the cells become cancerous and grow more quickly than usual.
Vismodegib works by blocking these signals so that the cancer stops growing. This type of drug is called a hedgehog pathway blocker.
How you have it
Vismodegib is a capsule that you take every day. You can take it with or without food.
Swallow the capsule whole, with water. Do not crush or open the capsules.
Taking your capsules
You should take the right dose, not more or less.
Never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.
If you accidentally take too much vismodegib
Talk to your doctor or go to a hospital.
If you forget to take vismodegib
Skip the missed dose and take the next dose at the usual time. Don't take a double dose to make up for the missed one.
When you have it
You continue taking vismodegib for as long as it works 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.
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 can harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for 2 years afterwards. Vismodegib can have an effect on the body during that time.
After starting treatment men must also use a condom during intercourse. You must continue to use condoms for 2 months after finishing treatment, even if you have had an operation to stop the sperm from entering into the penis (vasectomy).
You will need to sign a consent form and register with the company who makes vismodegib. This is to make sure you understand the risks of having this drug and that you agree to use reliable contraception for this period of time.
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.
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.
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.