Alemtuzumab

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Alemtuzumab

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
alemtuzumab MabCampath

Alemtuzumab is given intravenously or as a shot under the skin.

How It Works

Alemtuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that attaches itself to a protein called CD52. This protein is found on the surface of some cancer cells, including most chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. It helps your immune system see the cancer cell as something that needs to be destroyed.

Why It Is Used

Alemtuzumab may be used by itself or in combination with other drugs to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Alemtuzumab is sometimes used in clinical trials to treat other types of leukemia.

How Well It Works

For people who have CLL and who have not improved with other chemotherapy drugs such as cyclophosphamide, fludarabine, or rituximab (or a combination of these), alemtuzumab can be an effective treatment.

Side Effects

Common side effects include:

  • A weakened immune system, which increases your risk of infection.
  • Low blood counts, which may increase your risk of infection or bleeding.
  • Skin rashes and itching.
  • Swelling of the tongue or in the throat (angioedema) caused by an allergic reaction.
  • Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fatigue.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent infections for a certain period of time after your treatment.

Alemtuzumab should be taken only under the supervision of a medical oncologist or hematologist and only at specialized centres that can recognize and deal with side effects.

Alemtuzumab can cause birth defects. Do not use this drug if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or to father a child while you are taking it.

Do not use alemtuzumab if you are breast-feeding. The drug can pass into your breast milk.

Alemtuzumab can interact with many other drugs. Be sure your doctor knows what prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking.

Use alemtuzumab with caution if you have heart disease. The drug may make existing heart problems worse.

This drug has been studied for use only in adults. Its safety and effectiveness have not been established in children.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
Last Revised February 9, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.