Mercaptopurine

Brand Names

Purinethol, 6-MP (There may be other brand names for this medication)

How is It Administered?

This medication comes as a table and is taken by mouth. You should take it at the same time each day, on an empty stomach (either one hour before or two hours after eating).

What Is This Drug Used For?

This drug is used to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

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, and the times when each drug is the most likely to be effective. This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.

Mercaptopurine is in a class of drugs known as antimetabolites, drugs that interrupt the cell cycle. It is biologically similar to a nutrient that cancer cells need to grow. The cancer cells take in the capecitabine and it disrupts their growth and their ability to reproduce. If the cells are unable to divide, they die.

The faster cells are dividing (reproducing), the more likely it is that chemotherapy will damage/kill the cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not know the difference between cancer cells and normal cells that reproduce frequently. The cells in your body that are the most likely to be affected by chemotherapy are the cells that line the digestive tract (mouth, stomach, intestines), hair follicles, and blood cells.

These normal cells will eventually grow back and be healthy. During treatment, however, you may experience side effects from the chemotherapy’s effects on these normally fast reproducing cells including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, and decreased blood counts.

Continue Reading Detailed Drug Profile