What is Vinblastine?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 March 2020
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Vinblastine is a chemotherapy agent isolated from periwinkles. It is a plant alkaloid, capable of blocking cell reproduction and division. A doctor may prescribe this drug, usually as part of a multi-drug chemotherapy regimen, to slow the spread of cancers and stop them from growing. Patients will need to go to an infusion clinic for doses of vinblastine, and a nurse will monitor the patient during treatment for any signs of adverse reactions.

This drug is suitable for the treatment of a range of cancers, including some lymphomas, Kaposi's sarcoma, bladder cancer, and reproductive cancers. Patients with histiocytosis may also benefit from treatment with vinblastine. A nurse, doctor, or technician will inject the drug intravenously in a slow moving infusion to give it time to circulate evenly throughout the patient's body. Once the infusion is over, the patient may need to stay for monitoring to make sure a drug reaction is not occurring.

Vinblastine is a potent vesicant, causing blisters to develop. If patients experience pain or notice redness and irritation around the injection site, they should immediately alert the person administering the infusion. It is possible the needle may have slipped out of the vein, allowing the medication to leak into surrounding tissue. Patients should also report shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and rash, all signs of an adverse reaction to the medication.


Common vinblastine side effects include nausea, hair loss, diarrhea, bone pain, and vomiting. This drug will decrease the numbers of white blood cells in the body, causing fatigue and anemia. While on vinblastine, patients are more vulnerable to infection, and should avoid live vaccines and people carrying infectious disease. Even a minor cold can be dangerous for the patient, because the body's natural defenses are lowered. The medication is also harmful to developing fetuses, and women on this drug should use birth control to avoid pregnancy.

As a doctor treats a patient with vinblastine, the patient will need periodic checkups for blood draws and medical imaging studies. These tools are used to determine how well the patient is responding to the treatment. Doctors may also discuss side effects to see if they are intolerable or are interfering with the patient's ability to fight the cancer. If necessary, the treatment plan can be adjusted to address side effects or low responsiveness to the chemotherapy drugs. Alternative drugs may be available, and it is possible to access clinical trials if a patient does not respond to conventional treatments.



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