Nilotinib is an anti-cancer medication that is used to treat some types of leukemia, specifically Philadelphia chromosome positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph + CML). This medication is called a kinase inhibitor, which means that it works to halt the growth and spread of cancer cells. Nilotinib accomplishes this by inhibiting an abnormal protein that is responsible for instructing cancer cells to multiply. With this particular type of cancer, the body manufactures a great deal of abnormal white blood cells. Nilotinib is only prescribed after other cancer treatments, such as imatinib, have been tried and have not been sufficient.
Most adults will take 400 milligrams (mg) of nilotinib twice daily. Dosages for children will be determined on an individual basis. Nilotinib comes in a capsule that should not be split or otherwise broken, and must be taken 12 hours apart, on an empty stomach. Patients should wait for at least an hour after the dose to eat a meal, or take the capsule at least two hours after a meal.
Patients will undergo regular testing, such as blood tests, to monitor the effects of the medication. They should follow the prescribing physician's guidelines, which will include avoiding the consumption of grapefruit or grapefruit products. These products can interfere with nilotinib's absorption in the body.
Cancer patients should follow general self-care guidelines as well, which will include abstaining from contact sports and other situations with a high risk of injury. They should take precautions to avoid infection, such as avoiding crowds, as the immune system will be suppressed. Patients may need to work with a dentist to develop alternative methods of cleaning the teeth, as the gums will be susceptible to damage.
Nilotinib can cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Dizziness, insomnia, and night sweats may occur. Some patients report hair loss, numbness or tingling, and muscle, joint, or bone pain. The doctor should be contacted if these side effects become severe.
Other side effects can be more dangerous and require the doctor's immediate attention. These include unexplained weakness, bruising, or bleeding. Fever, chills, and other possible signs of an infection may occur. Some patients report sudden stomach pain, jaundice, and swelling in the face or extremities. Shortness of breath and blood in the urine or stool are also possible.
Patients should inform the doctor prescribing nilotinib of any other medical conditions they have. This includes pregnancy, as it can harm an unborn or nursing baby. It may also interact with other drugs and supplements.