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Brand names:


Other names:


Often used for:

Brain tumors, Neuroblastoma, Ewing sarcoma, Rhabdomyosarcoma, Other solid tumors

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About Irinotecan

Irinotecan is a type of chemotherapy. It works by stopping or slowing the growth cells. This medicine may be given in the clinic, hospital, or at home. The schedule and dose depends on the type of cancer, the child’s age, and method of administration.

Irinotecan by IV can cause tissue damage if it leaks from the vein. Patients may have irritation at the IV site. Let a caregiver know if there is burning during administration.

A genetic test may be performed to see how well the patient’s enzymes function. If a patient breaks down irinotecan more slowly, a lower dose of the medicine may be given.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver and kidney function.

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May be taken as a liquid by mouth

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May be given as a liquid into a vein by IV

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Possible Side Effects

  • Diarrhea (can occur within 24 hours or develop later)
  • Dehydration (especially with diarrhea)
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms (chills, aches, fever)
  • Runny nose, increase in tears or saliva
  • Skin irritation, rash
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • Stomach or back pain
  • Constipation
  • Mouth sores
  • Heartburn
  • Weight loss
  • Liver problems 
  • Irritation at the IV site

Not all patients who take irinotecan will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • While taking irinotecan, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Be sure to follow the care team’s instructions for appropriate fluid intake.
  • The care team may recommend medicines and/or foods to help manage the diarrhea. Anti-nausea medicines may also be prescribed.
  • While taking this medicine, do not eat grapefruit or Seville (bitter) oranges or drink juice or beverages containing grapefruit or Seville orange.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 6 months after completion of therapy.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Caregivers should follow instructions for safe handling and disposal of chemotherapy and avoid contact with patient body fluids. Patient body fluids can contain the drug for 48 hours after it is given.

Irinotecan at home:

  • Take medicine on an empty stomach. 
  • If vomiting occurs within 30 minutes of taking irinotecan by mouth, another dose should be given.
  • Liquid irinotecan should be stored in the refrigerator. Liquid irinotecan should be mixed with cranberry-grape juice or a flavored syrup immediately before it is taken.
  • Syringes for liquid medicine should be thrown away after each use. Do not reuse.
  • Give a missed dose as soon as possible. If it is near the time for the next dose, skip the dose. Do not give 2 doses at the same time.
  • Follow instructions for safe handling and disposal. 
  • Do not use the medicine past the expiration date.