Vincristine is an antineoplastic drug, a natural extract from the periwinkle (Cantharanthus roseus, formerly Vinca rosea), which is a species of myrtle. It is used to treat various forms of cancer including acute lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, small cell lung cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, cancer of the adrenal medulla, primitive neuroectodermal tumor, Wilms tumor (a type of kidney cancer), breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, multiple myeloma, and retinoblastoma.


Vincristine may be administered alone or in combination with other anticancer agents.


What is Vincristine?


The anticancer properties of Vincristine stem from its ability to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. It is in fact able to prevent cell division at the early stages of the process of mitosis (process consisting in the division of the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell).


How should Vincristine be taken?


Vincristine is administered exclusively intravenously, by injection or infusion (in the form of powder and solvent for solution for injection). Other routes of administration may be fatal.


Side effects associated with Vincristine


The most common side effects associated with the assumption of Vincristine may include:


  • Abdominal cramps and constipation and numbness of the hands and feet, known as “peripheral neuropathy", caused by the toxicity of Vincristine on the nervous tissue. With the conclusion of treatment, the peripheral neuropathy usually tends to regress completely within a few months, but in rare cases, the damage can become chronic and permanent.


Less frequent side effects of Vincristine:


  • Hair loss (usually begins after three to four weeks after administration of the first dose of chemotherapy)
  • Temporary reduction in the production of blood cells by the bone marrow
  • Allergic reactions like any other drug (rashes, itching, mild fever, chills, localized redness in the face, feeling of dizziness, headache, shortness of breath)


Contraindications and warnings associated with the use of Vincristine


The use of this drug is not recommended:


  • For patients who are hypersensitive to Vincristine or any of the excipients of the solution for injection;
  • For people who suffer from a disorder of the nerves and muscles called Charcot-Marie-Tooth;
  • For patients with severely impaired hepatic function;
  • For constipated patients or at risk of intestinal blockage;
  • For patients who are undergoing radiation therapy to the liver;


During treatment and for 6 months after discontinuation of therapy it is best to avoid the onset of pregnancy. Women being treated with Vincristine should also refrain from breastfeeding.


Additionally, the use of this drug is strongly contraindicated in individuals with heart and blood circulation problems. Lastly, Vincristine-based therapy may produce undesirable effects on the nervous system, altering the system for supervision. Therefore, it is recommended not to drive and operate equipment that requires undivided alertness.