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What Is Pentostatin?

K.C. Bruning
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pentostatin is an antibiotic chemotherapy drug. It is most commonly used to treat hairy cell leukemia, a form of cancer in which the patient has too many abnormal B lymphocytes. Another frequent use is to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Pentostatin may also be administered to patients with lymphoma or other kinds of leukemia. It is marketed under the brand name Nipent®.

The drug attempts to stop or impede the production of cancerous cells by slowing the production of DNA. It does this by blocking the production of an element called ribonucleotide reductase. This helps to prevent cell division, which is more active in cancerous cells. While the drug does cause DNA damage, it does not tend to have as strong an effect on the development of normal cells as they do not need to divide as frequently.

Pentostatin is typically administered by a trained professional in a medical facility. It comes as a powder, which is mixed with sterile fluid and given intravenously (IV). The therapy usually consists of biweekly treatments administered over the course of approximately three to six months.

Patients who are undergoing pentostatin treatment will often have a decrease in blood cells. For this reason, many doctors will test blood cell levels before, during and after the drug therapy. Some drugs may also increase the risk of taking pentostatin, including aspirin, allopurinal, fludarabine, and vidarabine. Women are typically advised not to get pregnant while undergoing treatment. Receiving vaccinations of any kind while taking the drug may also increase the risk of an adverse reaction.

There are many common side effects of taking pentostatin, including loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, and nausea. Some patients may also experience gas, diarrhea, and pain in the abdomen. There have also been reports of headaches and changes in the teeth and gums. These effects are usually not serious but should be discussed with a doctor if they become more severe or do not go away. Blistering in the mouth or uncharacteristic fatigue are more serious and should be discussed with a doctor if they worsen or persist.

The more serious side effects of taking pentostatin should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible. These include aching muscles, chills, and fever. Pain in the eyes, ears, throat, or chest should also receive treatment. Some patients also report dizziness, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
K.C. Bruning
By K.C. Bruning , Former Writer
Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and platforms, including WiseGeek. With a degree in English, she crafts compelling blog posts, web copy, resumes, and articles that resonate with readers. Bruning also showcases her passion for writing and learning through her own review site and podcast, offering unique perspectives on various topics.

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K.C. Bruning

K.C. Bruning

Former Writer

Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and...
Learn more
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