Asparaginase

Brand Names

Elspar Kidrolase (There may be other brand names for this medication)

How is Asparaginase Administered?

Your medicine may be given by given intravenously (IV), which means it will be given through a tube placed in a vein, usually in your arm, wrist, hand or chest. You may also receive the drug through a shot in a large muscle in your buttock, upper arm or thigh. (IM injection)

What is it Used For?

This drug is used to treat certain kinds of leukemia and other cancers.

How Does Asparaginase Work?

Asparagine is produce by your cells and is needed in order for the cells to carry on their normal functions. Cancer cells cannot make asparagine.

Asparaginase is an enzyme that breaks down asparagine. Normal cells just make more, but since the cancer cells cannot make asparagine themselves, they die.

When asparagine is broken down by this enzyme, it makes ammonia and asparatic acid. As the levels of these two chemicals in your blood rise, you may experience neurological side effects such as sleepiness, agitation, confusion, or coma.

What Should I Tell My Doctor Before I Begin Receiving Asparaginase?

Tell your doctor if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to Asparaginase
  • are taking aspirin, methotrexate (Rheumatrex), and/or vitamins
  • have liver, kidney, or pancreatic disease (pancreatitis, diabetes, high blood sugar, etc.)
  • have diabetes or high blood sugar
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

This drug may interact with other medications, increasing or decreasing their effectiveness or causing harmful side effects. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any prescription or over-the- counter medications, vitamins, herbal or diet supplements that you are taking.

What Are Some Possible Side Effects?

  • Nausea, vomiting and/or loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Headache

How Can I Manage These Side Effects?

  • Drink plenty of fluids (particularly water), unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake because of another medical condition.
  • Mouth care is very important while taking this drug. Rinse your mouth with a mixture of 1⁄2 tsp of baking soda in 8 oz of water after every meal and at bedtime. Brush your teeth and gums often with a soft toothbrush. (Soften it further by running it under warm water before brushing.)
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
  • If you develop a rash, do not put anything on it unless it is first approved by your doctor. Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Ask your doctor about medication to help prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting.
  • Be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse if you feel you need help with your mood.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Any sign of infection: fever of 100.5F (38C) or higher, chills, cough, sore throat, pain or burning upon urination; redness or tenderness along a vein, at an IV site, or at any other wound or skin irritation
  • Any sign of an allergic reaction: itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, dizziness, or palpitations
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding: bleeding lasts more than 10-15 minutes or that causes dizziness; black or bloody stools; vomit that is bloody or that looks like coffee grounds; blood in your urine or phlegm/mucus, unusually heavy menstrual bleeding, spontaneous bleeding from your gums or nose, or superficial bleeding into the skin that appears as a rash of pinpoint-sized reddish-purple spots (petechiae)
  • Severe stomach pain with nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in being awakened, severe headache, hallucinations, sudden confusion, and/or seizures
  • Difficult or frequent urination

Call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience:

  • Nausea, vomiting, or mouth soreness that is not relieved by prescribed medication or that prevents you from eating and drinking
  • Extreme tiredness or muscle weakness that interferes with normal activities. Clumsiness while buttoning clothes, opening jars, etc
  • Swelling of your feet or lower legs
  • Ongoing loss of appetite or rapid weight loss (5 or more pounds in 1 week)
  • Tremors (twitching) in your arms or hands
  • Low back or side pain
  • Decrease in your urine output

What Else Should I Know About Asparaginase?

  • During a treatment, let your nurse know immediately if you have:
  • Shortness or breath
  • Rash or itching
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Palpitation (feeling your heart beat rapidly)
  • You should not use aspirin or any product that has aspirin in it (such as some cold medicines) unless you have talked to your doctor.
  • This drug may interfere with a woman’s menstrual cycle and a man’s ability to produce sperm. Do NOT, however, assume you cannot get pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Use an effective method of birth control during your treatment, t his drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child.
  • Do not breastfeed during treatment.
  • This drug may cause bone marrow depression (low red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which put you at an increased risk for infection, anemia, and bleeding problems. Stay away from crowds or people with colds, flu, or other infections. Wash your hands often. Brush and floss your teeth gently. Be careful when using sharp objects, including razors and fingernail clippers. Talk to your doctor before getting any vaccines (such as flu shots).
  • If you have your treatments at home, you may need to store the medicine. Keep the medicine in the refrigerator. Do not freeze.
  • If you would like more information about asparaginase, talk to your doctor.