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What is Topotecan?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Topotecan is a chemotherapy medication used in the treatment of some forms of cancer when they do not respond to first line treatments. In the United States, it is sold under the brand name Hycamtin®. This medication can be very dangerous and is typically administered in a clinical setting, where patients can be monitored for signs of adverse reactions. It may be used in a combination therapy regimen with one or more additional medications.

This drug acts by inhibiting the activities of the topoisomerase I enzyme. Treatment with topotecan leads to cellular death in cancer cells. The medication has been approved for use in the treatment of lung, ovarian, and cervical cancer. Like many other chemotherapy drugs, topotecan is also used experimentally in the treatment of some other cancers and ongoing clinical trials are being used to study the effectiveness of the drug in the treatment of other conditions.

The medication is designed to be administered via infusion over the course of 30 minutes. Several rounds of topotecan therapy may be needed to treat a patient effectively and follow up visits will be used to see how well the cancer is responding to treatment. When used in combination therapy, a barrage of multiple chemotherapy drugs is used to target the cancer with the goal of preventing it from spreading further and killing off cancer cells to shrink the growth.

People taking topotecan can commonly experience symptoms like hair loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. This drug can also kill white blood cells, making the patient's immune system vulnerable to infection. People taking chemotherapy must be careful about exposing themselves to infectious agents and it is advisable to avoid vaccinations while on chemotherapy. Some other medications can also interact negatively with this drug.

Care for cancer patients is typically supervised by an oncologist who provides continuity of care and monitors the patient's care at various stages of treatment. Patients diagnosed with cancer may find it helpful to ask questions about treatment options and their associated risks. They should also make sure that all of their medical providers are aware of the cancer and the medications they are taking. It can be helpful to write up a brief description of the cancer and the treatment regimen; this can be provided to new doctors and can be useful for paramedics and emergency medical personnel in the event a patient requires emergency medical treatment.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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