What Asparaginase is and what it is used for?
- Asparaginase is an enzyme that breaks down asparagine in the body. Asparagine is an important amino acid for protein synthesis in both normal cells and cancer cells. Unlike normal cells, certain cancer cells cannot produce enough asparagine and they must rely on circulating asparagine in the blood. Asparaginase plays a role in depleting circulating asparagine, thus blocking the growth of cancer cells.
- Asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL).
How Asparaginase is given?
- It is given as an infusion into a vein over 1 hour or more. This drug sometimes can be given as an injection into a muscle, as determined by your doctor.
What should I know while receiving Asparaginase?
- Because of the higher risk of allergic reactions to asparaginase, you will have a skin test before the first dose and whenever an interval of 2 weeks or longer.
- An allergic reaction may happen during or shortly after asparaginase is given, causing fever and chills, breathing difficulties, swelling of throat or face, hives or a drop in blood pressure. Tell your nurse right away if you feel unwell while this drug is being given.
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months after the treatment ends.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- You will be check regularly to make sure you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive asparaginase. The timing and dosing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or side effects.
- There are many drugs may affect how asparaginase works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of asparaginase. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially if you have high blood sugar, liver problems, and a bleeding or blood clotting disorder.
Common side effects
- Flu like symptoms
Symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pains and shivering may occur a few hours after treatment. These symptoms generally last for 2 to 3 days. Seek medical help if you do not get any better.
- Nausea and vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Loss of appetite
Try to eat in small quantities and have frequent meals. If your appetite does not get any better after a few days, tell your doctor.
- Changes in nervous system
You may feel very dizzy or sleepy, or may experience difficulty thinking and a sudden loss of balance. Problems may start within a few days after receiving this drug and may last for a few days. Tell your doctor if you begin to feel any of these symptoms.
Ask your doctor about medicines that can relieve diarrhea. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes may help.
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as you need. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
Less common side effects
- Mouth sores
Your doctor can give you medicines that help you ease the discomfort. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
- Inflammation of the pancreas
You might have changes in the levels of pancreatic enzymes such as amylase and lipase. Seek medical help at once if you have sudden pain in the upper abdomen, fever, vomiting, or abdominal pain that gets worse after eating and may be accompanied by diarrhea.
- High blood sugar levels
If you have diabetes, this drug may worse your condition. Your doctor will monitor your blood sugar and may prescribe medications if necessary.
- Elevated liver enzymes
This is usually mild and may return to normal after treatment has ended. Seek medical help at once if you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day during treatment can help make your recovery a smoother process.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.