Bosutinib (Bosulif)

Bosutinib is a type of targeted cancer drug. It is also known as Bosulif. 

You pronounce bosutinib as boe-sue-ti-nib. 

It is a treatment for people with newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) that has an abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome. You might also have bosutinib if you have had previous treatment for this type of cancer that no longer works or caused severe side effects.

Most people with CML have the Philadelphia chromosome.

How does bosutinib work?

Bosutinib is a type of drug called a protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Tyrosine kinases are proteins that act as chemical messengers to stimulate cancer cells to grow.

Bosutinib blocks (inhibits) a protein made by CML cells that have the Philadelphia chromosome. Blocking this protein stops the leukaemia cells growing. 

How do you have bosutinib?

Bosutinib comes as tablets that you take once a day with food.

You should swallow them whole with a glass of water.

Do not take this drug with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. It may make the amount of bosutinib in your blood increase to a harmful level. 

You usually carry on taking bosutinib for as long as it works, unless it causes bad side effects.

Taking your tablets or capsules

You must take tablets and capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

Talk to your healthcare team before you stop taking a cancer drug, or if you have missed a dose.

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.

You may also have an ECG before you start treatment. ECG stands for electrocardiogram. It is a test to check the electrical activity of your heart. 

What are the side effects of bosutinib?

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. 

When to contact your team

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you 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 advice line 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.

Common side effects

These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

Increased risk of getting an 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, bleeding gums or nosebleeds

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).

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.

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.

Tummy (abdominal) pain

Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help. 

Skin changes

Skin problems include a skin rash, dry skin and itching. This usually goes back to normal when your treatment finishes. Your nurse will tell you what products you can use on your skin to help.

Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)

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.

Liver changes

You might have liver changes that are usually mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. They usually go back to normal when treatment finishes. You have regular blood tests to check for any changes in the way your liver is working.

Headaches

Tell your healthcare team if you keep getting headaches. They can give you painkillers to help.

Dizziness

This drug might make you feel dizzy. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you have this.

Cough

You might have a cough, difficulty breathing or fluid on the lung (pleural effusion). Talk to the team looking after you about this. 

Joint and back pain

You might feel some pain in your muscles, joints and back. Speak to your doctor or nurse about painkillers you can take to help with this.

Loss of appetite

You might lose your appetite for various reasons whilst having cancer treatment. Sickness, taste changes or tiredness can put you off food and drinks.

High temperature (fever)

If you get a high temperature, let your healthcare team know straight away. Ask them if you can take paracetamol to help lower your temperature.

Fluid build up 

A build up of fluid (oedema) may cause swelling in your arms, hands, ankles, legs, face, eyes and other parts of the body. Contact your healthcare team if this happens to you.

Kidney changes 

You might have some changes in the way your kidneys work. You have regular blood tests to check how well they are working.

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:

  • bleeding in stomach or bowel - contact your healthcare team if you have blood in your poo or black poo
  • changes to mineral levels in the blood - you have regular blood tests to check for this
  • kidney problems such as kidney failure
  • fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion)
  • lung infections including pneumonia
  • dehydration
  • high blood pressure which might cause symptoms such as headaches and dizziness
  • taste changes
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • low number of white blood cells – which can increase your risk of getting an infection. Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your advice line urgently if you think you have an infection
  • chest pain and/or changes to your heart rhythm
  • inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

Rare side effects

These side effects happen in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • allergic reaction – contact your healthcare team immediately if you have breathlessness, a skin rash, feel hot and flushed or swelling of the lips, mouth or throat
  • changes to the levels of chemicals in your body caused by a breakdown of tumour cells (tumour lysis syndrome) - you will have regular blood tests to check for this

Other side effects

There isn't enough information to work out how often these side effects might happen. You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • severe skin reaction such as painful rash that spreads and blisters, contact your healthcare team if you have this
  • a virus called hepatitis B to become active again if you’ve had it in the past

Coping with side effects

We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.

What else do you need to know?

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with medicines, herbal products, and some food and drinks. We are unable to list all the possible interactions that may happen. An example is grapefruit or grapefruit juice which can increase the side effects of certain drugs.

Tell your healthcare team about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Also let them know about any other medical conditions or allergies you may have.

Pregnancy and contraception

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. Let them know straight away if you or your partner falls pregnant while having treatment.

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 might be able to store sperm before starting treatment. And women might be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue. But these services are not available in every hospital, so you would need to ask your doctor about this.    

Breastfeeding

It is not known whether this drug comes through into the breast milk. Doctors usually advise that you don’t breastfeed during this treatment.

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 one of the shingles vaccines called Zostavax.

You can have:

  • other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • the flu vaccine (as an injection)
  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to have it in relation to your cancer treatment

Members of your household who are aged 5 years or over are also able to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to help lower your risk of getting COVID-19 while having cancer treatment and until your immune system Open a glossary item recovers from treatment.

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. Sometimes people who have had the live shingles vaccine can get a shingles type rash. If this happens they should keep the area covered.

If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as this is a live vaccine. 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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