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Rituximab

Immunotherapy

Brand names:

Rituxan®

Other names:

Anti-CD20 Monoclonal Antibody, C2B8 Monoclonal Antibody

Often used for:

Autoimmune disorders and certain types of leukemia and lymphoma

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About Rituximab

Rituximab is a type of medicine called a monoclonal antibody. This medicine works by targeting a protein called CD20 found on B cells. B cells are white blood cells of the immune system that are involved in certain types of lymphoma and leukemia. Rituximab attaches to cells with CD20 and acts as a signal so that the body’s immune system can attack the B cells. Rituximab is considered a type of immunotherapy because it uses the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer cells. It is also a targeted therapy because the medicine is specific to certain cell features and “targets” those cells.

This medicine is often given weekly. It may take several hours to receive a rituximab infusion. Blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and temperature will be checked regularly during the infusion as there are concerns for infusion-related side effects.

Rituximab may be used in combination with other medicines. Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts.

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Given as a liquid into a vein by IV

 
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Possible Side Effects

  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills)
  • Headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Flushing
  • Night sweats
  • Runny nose 
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • Anxiety
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Tumor lysis syndrome

Infusion-related reactions may include chills, shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, low blood pressure, pain in the chest, swelling of the face or neck.

Not all patients who take rituximab 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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Possible Late Effects

Some patients may experience long-term or late effects of treatment that may continue or develop months or years after treatment ends. Possible late effects due to rituximab include:

  • Aplastic anemia
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Tips for Families

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

  • Some patients may have a reaction to this medicine. Let a nurse know how you are feeling during the infusion.
  • Your care team may recommend diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and other medicines to help prevent flu-like symptoms.
  • Anti-nausea medicines may also be prescribed.
  • 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.

Rituximab resources