Other Names

Cytosar-Y®, ara-C, arabinosylcytosine (There may be other names for this medication.)

How is It Administered?

Cytarabine is given by injection. It may be injected into a vein (intravenous/IV), usually in your arm, wrist, hand or chest. It may also be injected under the skin (subcutaneous/SQ) or into a muscle (intramuscular/IM) in your buttocks, thigh, or upper arm.

Why Am I Receiving Cytarabine?

This drug is used alone or in combination with other drugs to treat certain kinds of leukemia, including AML (acute myeloid leukemia), ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia), CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia), and meningeal leukemia.

How Does it Work?

Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Both normal and cancer cells go through cycles that include a resting phase, active growing phases, and division. Your chemotherapy schedule is based upon the type of cancer you have, the rate at which they divide (reproduce), and the times when each drug is the most likely to be effective. This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.

Cytarabine is in a class of drugs known as antimetabolites. Antimetabolites attack cells at very specific phases in the cycle (cell-cycle specific). Cytarabine is biologically similar to a nutrient that cancer cells need. The cancer cells take in the drug and it disrupts their ability to reproduce. If the cells are unable to reproduce, they die.

Chemotherapy drugs identify cancer cells by their rapid rate of reproduction. Unfortunately, some normal cells reproduce quickly, and they too are attacked. The normal cells will eventually grow back and be healthy. During treatment, however, you may experience side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, and low blood counts.

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