Brand Names

Camptosar®, CPT-11 (There may be other brand names for this medication.)

How is it Administered?

Your medicine will be given by injection into a vein (intravenously or IV). The infusion takes about 90 minutes.

What is it Used For?

This drug is used to treat cancer of the colon or rectum that has spread (metastasized). It may be used in the treatment of other types of cancer as well.

How Does Irinotecan Work?

Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells reproduce without control. Your chemo schedule is based upon your cancer type, how fast the cancer cells multiply, and the time of the cells’ reproductive cycle when the medication is the most likely to be effective. This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.

Irinotecan is a type of plant alkaloid called a podopyllotoxin or a topoisomerase inhibitor. It attacks the cancer cells during specific stages of the cell cycle. If the cells are unable to divide, they die.

The faster cells reproduce, the more likely it is that chemotherapy will damage and/or kill them. Since there are some types of cells in your body that naturally reproduce rapidly, these types of cells are likely to be damaged/destroyed by chemo. These normal cells will eventually grow back and be healthy. During treatment, however, you may experience side effects from the chemo’s effect on the cells.

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