Lomustine, known as CCNU or CeeNu, is a chemotherapy medication used in cancer treatment to stop cancer cells from reproducing. It is most commonly used to treat people with brain tumors or Hodgkin's disease and is among a class of drugs known as alkylating agents. Like other chemotherapy medications, lomustine is very potent and it needs to be used exactly as directed to reduce the risk of complications. It is available by prescription only.
This medication can stop cell growth. It is administered once every six weeks along with an antinausea medication to prevent patients from vomiting after taking their dose. It can be used in combination therapy that includes other chemotherapy drugs along with treatment options like radiation. The drug is available in the form of capsules that should not be broken or handled with bare hands. Capsules should be stored in a cool, dry place well out of reach of other members of the household.
Common lomustine side effects include weight loss, fatigue, weakness, and changes in skin color. The drug can also be associated with damage to the cells in the bone marrow. It can take weeks for this complication to set in and while a patient is using lomustine, regular testing to check on white blood cell counts is needed so that this complication can be identified as soon as it arises. This drug is not recommended for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Because lomustine can weaken a patient's immune system, it is important to avoid receiving vaccinations while on this medication and it is advisable to avoid contact with people infected with contagious diseases. It is also important to be alert to potential drug interactions. Blood thinners and anti-inflammatory drugs, including drugs available over the counter, can both interact with this drug. A pharmacist can provide information about specific medication conflicts and offer advice on alternatives for drugs that cannot be taken safely with lomustine.
While patients are on lomustine and other chemotherapy drugs, they are usually monitored closely to see how well the cancer is responding to the treatment. If the cancer does not appear to respond, other medications can be explored along with other treatment options to address the tumor. Cancer patients should report side effects, especially symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, and extreme discomfort. Some side effects can be a sign of life threatening complications and patients experiencing severe side effects may require immediate medical treatment.