What is it?
Abraxane® is also known as nab-paclitaxel
Abraxane® is usually given in conjunction with gemcitabine for advanced pancreatic cancer by intravenous infusion (through a drip) with each infusion usually lasting around 30 minutes. You will often be given anti-sickness drugs (anti-emetics) at the same time.
How is it given?
Intravenous infusions are given through a thin, short tube (cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.
Alternatively, you may have a central line, a portacath or a PICC line inserted just before your treatment starts. These are tubes that give the drugs directly into a large vein in your chest and will stay in place as long as you need them.
Abraxane® (also known as nab-paclitaxel) it has been used in combination with gemcitabine within clinical trials and a recent phase III randomised trial showed that nab-pactlitaxel plus gemcitabine was superior to gemcitabine alone.
It is hoped there will be a licence to use Abraxane® in the UK for metastatic (spread to other parts of the body) pancreatic cancer by the end of 2013. In the meantime, some oncologists in the UK will offer this to patients with advanced disease if there is approval from local commissioners.
What are the side effects?
- Decreased blood cell counts. Abraxane® can cause a severe decrease in neutrophils (a type of white blood cells important in fighting in bacterial infections) and platelets (important for clotting and to control bleeding). Your doctor will check your blood cell count during your treatment with Abraxane® and after you have stopped your treatment.
- Numbness, tingling, or burning in your hands or feet (neuropathy).
- hair loss
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- abnormal heart beat
- joint and muscle pain
- changes in your liver function tests
- low red blood cell count (anaemia). Tell your doctor if you feel weak, tired or short of breath.
Infections can be serious. Let your doctor or nurse know immediately if your temperature goes above 38o C (100.4o F) or you suddenly feel unwell even with a normal temperature.
Click here to read about other chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer.