Irinotecan is primarily used to treat colon cancer and rectal cancer. It can be used alone or in combination with other drugs.


What is Irinotecan?

Irinotecan works by interfering with the production of proteins that are necessary for the growth and replication of tumor cells. These tumors cells form a tumor mass. 


How should Irinotecan be taken?

Irinotecan is administered intravenously via injection. 


Side effects associated with Irinotecan

Irinotecan increases the risk of severe bleeding, infections or diarrhea.


Among the other possible side effects of Irinotecan include the following: 


  • Back ache
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Redness
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Increased salivation
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Constriction of the pupils
  • Stomach cramps or pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss


It is important to contact a doctor immediately if you experience:


  • Rash
  • Urticaria
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue
  • Pain or tenderness in the calves
  • Pain in the chest, jaw or left arm
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Fever, chills or sore throat
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Mood changes
  • Numbness of an arm or a leg
  • Weakness in one side of body
  • Pain in the groin or legs
  • Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Redness of the palms or soles of the feet
  • Persistent or severe dizziness
  • Severe stomach pain or back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden and severe headache
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Trouble talking
  • Vision problems
  • Vomiting


Contraindications and warnings associated with the use of Irinotecan

Irinotecan can compromise the ability to drive or operate hazardous machinery. This side effect can be further exacerbated by alcohol and other drugs. In case of swelling at the injection site, it is advisable to apply ice in order to alleviate discomfort. 


Before starting treatment with Irinotecan, it is important to tell your doctor if:


  • You have any allergies to the active substance, its excipients or any other drugs or food
  • You are taking any other medications, herbal remedies or supplements. Mentioning in particular:  other cancer drugs, atazanavir, clarithromycin, diuretics, gemfibrozil, indinavir, itraconazole, ketoconazole, lopinavir, nefazodone, nelfinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, telaprevir, voriconazole, carbamazepine, St. John's wort, hydantoin, phenobarbital, rifabutin and rifampin
  • You are suffering (or have suffered) from liver or kidney disease, lung or blood disorders, bone marrow problems, diabetes or hyperglycemia, shingles, chickenpox or other infections
  • You are fructose intolerant
  • You have recently been vaccinated
  • You have recently undergone (or planning to undergo) dental surgery or radiotherapy
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding