VDC/IE

VDC/IE is the name of a chemotherapy combination. It includes the chemotherapy drugs we list below. Next to each drug we have written how you pronounce the drug name in brackets.

  • V – vincristine (vin-kris-teen)
  • D – doxorubicin (doks-oh-roo-bi-sin)
  • C – cyclophosphamide (sigh-kloe-foss-fah-mide)
  • I – ifosfamide (eye-foss-fa-mide)
  • E – etoposide (e-top-oh-side)

It is a treatment for a type of:

  • bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma
  • soft tissue sarcoma called desmoplastic small round cell tumour

For Ewing sarcoma, you might also have radiotherapy with your chemotherapy.

How does VDC/IE work?

These chemotherapy drugs destroy quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

How do you have VDC/IE?

You usually have all the drugs into your bloodstream (intravenously).

You might have treatment through a long plastic tube that goes into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

  • central line
  • PICC line
  • portacath

If you don't have a central line

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

How often do you have VDC/IE?

You have VDC/IE as cycles of treatment. This means you have the drugs and then a rest to allow your body to recover.

When having VDC/IE, you switch (alternate) between cycles, meaning you have 1 cycle of VDC followed by 1 cycle of IE.

For example, you have VDC as cycles 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 and IE as cycles 2, 4, 6, and 8.

Each cycle of treatment is usually 14 days (2 weeks). It also depends on whether your blood counts have recovered.

You will have 9 cycles of VDC/IE (induction chemotherapy Open a glossary item). Your doctor will then check how well the chemotherapy has worked. This will help decide what chemotherapy regimen (consolidation chemotherapy Open a glossary item) you have next. This is usually for 5 further cycles. 

VDC cycle:

Day 1
  • You have vincristine as a short drip (infusion) into your bloodstream over 10 minutes.
  • You have doxorubicin as a drip into your bloodstream over 24 hours, or over 1 hour.
  • You have cyclophosphamide as a drip into your bloodstream over 1 hour.
Day 2
  • You have doxorubicin as a drip over 24 hours or over 1 hour.
Day 3
  • Your nurse disconnects the doxorubicin drip if you have had it over 24 hours.
Day 3 to day 14
  • You have no treatment.

You then start IE as the next cycle.

IE cycle:

Day 1 to day 5
  • You have ifosfamide as a drip into your bloodstream over 1 hour.
  • You have etoposide as a drip into your bloodstream over 2 hours.
Day 6 to day 14
  • You have no treatment.

You then start VDC as the next cycle.

Mesna and G-CSF

You usually have ifosfamide with another drug called mesna. You have mesna either as a drip (infusion) into your bloodstream or as tablets.

Mesna is not a chemotherapy drug. It stops the ifosfamide from irritating your bladder and making the lining bleed.

You usually also have a drug called granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). This makes your bone marrow Open a glossary item produce white blood cells Open a glossary item more quickly after the chemotherapy. It helps lower your risk of getting an infection after having this treatment.

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.

What are the side effects of VDC/IE?

Side effects 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 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).

Breathlessness 

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

Hair loss

You could lose all your hair. This includes your eyelashes, eyebrows, underarms, legs 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. 

Numbness or tingling or pain in fingers and toes 

Numbness or tingling in fingers or toes can be temporary or persistent. It 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. 

If you’re experiencing nerve pain tell your doctor. They may be able to prescribe some painkillers which are helpful for nerve pain.

Constipation

Constipation is easier to sort out if you treat it early. Drink plenty of fluids and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can. Try to take gentle exercise, such as walking. Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are constipated for more than 3 days. They can prescribe a laxative.

Loss of appetite

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

A sore mouth and inflammation of the food pipe (oesophagus)

You might get a sore mouth and mouth ulcers. It may be painful to swallow drinks or food. You will have mouthwashes to keep your mouth healthy.

You can have painkillers to reduce the soreness. Take them half an hour before meals to make eating easier.

Less commonly, you might have inflammation of the food pipe (oesophagus). Symptoms might include heartburn, pain or difficulty swallowing. You might feel as though your food gets stuck in your throat, bloating or burping. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have this. They can give you medication to relieve the symptoms.

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.

Rarely, you might have bloody diarrhoea. Contact your doctor or nurse straight away if you see this.

Feeling or being sick

Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. It might help to avoid fatty or fried foods, eat small meals and snacks and take regular sips of water. Relaxation techniques might also 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 treat it once it has started.

Soreness, redness and peeling on palms and soles of feet

The skin on your hands and feet may become sore, red, or may peel. You may also have tingling, numbness, pain and dryness. This is called hand-foot syndrome or palmar plantar syndrome.

Moisturise your skin regularly. Your healthcare team will tell you what moisturiser to use.

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.

Heart changes

You may have changes to how your heart works such as your heart rhythm. Tests such as a heart trace (ECG) might pick this up.

Less commonly, your heart muscle might not pump blood as well as it should (heart failure) or a heart attack might happen. Symptoms of a heart attack include an overwhelming pain in the chest that might feel heavy, tight or as through its squeezing the chest. Other symptoms of a heart attack include feeling lightheaded, dizzy, pain in different parts of the body, sweating or anxious.

Rarely, you might have inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or the thin layers of tissue around the heart (pericarditis), causing chest pain or shortness of breath.

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.

Rarely, you might get inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), blocking of the veins taking blood to the liver or an enlarged liver. Symptoms include dark urine, pale, grey-coloured poo, itchy skin, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice).

You have regular blood tests to check for any changes in the way your liver is working.

Inflammation of the bladder

Cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide can cause inflammation and sometimes bleeding of the bladder lining. This can cause you to:

  • pass urine more often than usual
  • find it difficult to pass urine
  • have a burning feeling or pain when you go
  • not be able to wait when you need to go
  • pass blood or blood clots

It helps to drink plenty of fluids. You might also have extra fluids or a drug called Mesna to protect your bladder.

Tell your nurse or doctor straight away if you have any problems passing urine.

Kidney changes

You might have some changes in the way your kidneys work. Kidney changes can include acute kidney failure. This means your kidneys stop working suddenly. Let your doctor or nurse know straight away if you have breathlessness, tiredness and swelling of the body due to fluid build up.

You'll have regular blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working.

Tummy (abdominal) cramps

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

Skin and nail changes

This treatment may change the colour of your skin. This usually goes away after you stop the treatment. 

Less commonly, you might have darkened nails or a skin rash that can be itchy and raised.

Rarely, you might get Stevens Johnson syndrome (SJS) or toxic epidermal necrolysis - a severe skin reaction that may start as tender red patches which lead to peeling or blistering of the skin. You might also feel feverish, and your eyes may be more sensitive to light. This is serious and could be life threatening.

Feeling generally unwell

Speak to your doctor or nurse if you feel generally unwell after having this treatment.

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:

  • an allergic reaction that can cause a rash, shortness of breath, redness or swelling of the face and dizziness - some allergic reactions can be life threatening, alert your nurse or doctor if you notice any of these symptoms
  • an eye infection (conjunctivitis) – your eyes may feel gritty, itchy, sticky from pus, watery and look red
  • a skin and tissue reaction at the drip site – tell your nurse or doctor straight away if this happens
  • inflammation of a vein causing pain and tenderness along the vein
  • a type of blood cancer called acute leukaemia, rarely you might get second cancers such as a type of blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome, bladder cancer or cancer of the tubes that takes urine from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters)
  • dizziness
  • high blood pressure that might cause headaches, confusion, vision problems or chest pain
  • low blood pressure that can cause you to feel lightheaded or dizzy
  • deafness

Rare side effects

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

  • blood clots that are life threatening; signs are pain, swelling and redness where the clot is. Feeling breathless can be a sign of a blood clot on the lung. Contact your advice line or doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms
  • high uric acid levels in the blood due to the breakdown of tumour cells (tumour lysis syndrome) – you will have regular blood tests to check this
  • small blood clots developing throughout the bloodstream, blocking small blood vessels (disseminated intravascular coagulation)
  • an excessive uncontrolled release of a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH) causing feeling sick, loss of appetite, sore muscles and weakness
  • not having enough fluid in your body (dehydration)
  • seizures (fits)
  • breakdown of muscle causing sore muscles and dark urine
  • several organs in the body stopping working

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:

  • problems with passing urine such as passing large amounts of urine, having discomfort when passing urine or not being able to pass urine (urine retention)
  • red or pink urine. This can be due to the colour of doxorubicin and can last for one or two days following your treatment
  • stiff joints and muscle aches and pains
  • eye changes such as loss of vision which is temporary
  • weight loss

If you have side effects that aren’t listed on this page, you can look at the individual drug pages:

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 drinks

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 may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or get someone pregnant while you are having treatment. Women must not become pregnant for at least a year after the end of treatment. Men should not get someone pregnant for at least 6 months after treatment. 

Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment. Let them know straight away if you or your partner become pregnant while having treatment.

Loss of fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or get someone pregnant after treatment with these drugs. 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

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment. This is because the drugs may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

If you are having tests or treatment for anything else, always mention your cancer treatment. For example, if you are visiting your dentist.

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 and possible side effects go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website. You can find the patient information leaflet on this website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Related links