What is Mustine?

D. Jeffress

Mustine is an intravenous medication used to combat certain forms of blood and tissue cancer, including Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is a very potent solution that is derived from mustard gas, so doctors are extremely careful when preparing and administering the drug to avoid accidental skin exposure or inhalation. When used alone or in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, most people experience significant symptom relief within a few weeks or months. Mustine effectively shrinks the size of tumors and slows the spread of cancer in the majority of patients.

Mustine chemically binds DNA together.
Mustine chemically binds DNA together.

Many chemotherapy drugs, including mustine, are classified as alkylating agents. They work by infiltrating the nuclei of cancerous cells and chemically binding double-helix strands of DNA tightly together. When DNA strands are unable to separate, a cell cannot begin the process of mitosis, or cell division. Tumors stop growing when new cells stop being produced. In addition, existing cancerous cells eventually die and tumors begin to shrink.

Like other chemotherapy treatments, mustine may cause temporary hair loss.
Like other chemotherapy treatments, mustine may cause temporary hair loss.

Mustine is usually provided intravenously in a hospital or clinic by a trained healthcare professional. The medicine can be devastating to healthy skin, fat, or muscle tissue, so extreme precautions are taken to ensure that the injection needle fully punctures a large vein in the arm. Most adult patients are given one or two injections of diluted mustine daily for a specified period of time, usually not more than about two weeks. Subsequent courses of treatment are administered about every three to six weeks, depending on the patient's health and the response of the tumor.

It is possible to experience a number of side effects when taking mustine. The most common immediate side effects are nausea and vomiting. Lasting side effects may include lowered white and red blood cell counts, hair loss, and lesions in the mouth. Since the drug impairs the immune system, patients and their doctors must take special precautions to prevent infections and allergic reactions. Mustine may react adversely with other drugs, including over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, so it is important for a doctor to carefully review his or her patient's current medication use before beginning treatment.

Throughout the course of treatment, specialists carefully monitor the patient's health. Dosages may need to be lowered or stopped if blood cell counts get too low. People who are able to tolerate mustine for several months usually begin to recover from their cancer symptoms. Ongoing monitoring and frequent checkups are important to ensure that cancer does not spread or worsen after completing treatment.

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