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Targeted Therapy

Brand names:


Other names:

Sunitinib malate

Often used for:

Renal cell carcinoma, Gastrointestinal stromal tumor, Pancreatic cancer, Thyroid cancer, Soft tissue sarcoma

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What is Sunitinib?

Sunitinib is a type of medicine called a targeted therapy. This medicine is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor or vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor. It acts to block certain cell signals to help keep cells from growing. It can also help block the growth of blood vessels that supply oxygen to tumors.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver, kidney, and thyroid function. Blood pressure and heart function may also be monitored. The dose of sunitinib may change based on results of lab tests.

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May be taken as a capsule by mouth

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Possible Side Effects

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in taste
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Changes in hair or skin color
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid problems
  • Liver problems
  • Swelling of the hands, legs, feet, or feeling “bloated” (excess water weight)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rash, itching, dry skin
  • Shortness of breath, cough
  • Heartburn, gas
  • Mouth sores
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Problems sleeping
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Hair loss
  • Poor or slow wound healing
  • Hand-foot syndrome (tingling of the hands and feet, redness and flaking of the skin)
  • Low blood sugar
  • Tumor lysis syndrome
  • Heart problems

Not all patients who take sunitinib 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 sunitinib include:

  • Aseptic necrosis of the jaw
  • Heart problems
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Tips for Families

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

  • While taking this medicine, do not eat grapefruit or Seville (bitter) oranges or drink juice or beverages containing grapefruit or Seville orange.
  • Sunitinib may cause aseptic necrosis of the jaw. Report any pain or changes in the jaw to the care team. Patients should have regular dental exams and take good care of their teeth.
  • Sunitinib can cause serious skin reactions. Patients should carefully inspect the skin daily for signs of bruises, swelling, or other skin changes.
  • While taking sunitinib, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Patients should follow the care team’s instructions for appropriate fluid intake.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 2 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 the medicine and avoid contact with patient body fluids.

Sunitinib at home:

  • Take sunitinib at the same time each day, with or without food. Take with food if stomach upset occurs.
  • Swallow capsules whole. Do not cut, crush, or chew capsules.
  • Store the medicine at room temperature.
  • Give a missed dose as soon as possible. If it is within 12 hours of the time for the next dose, skip the dose. Do not give 2 doses at the same time.
  • Do not use the medicine past the expiration date.
  • Follow instructions for safe handling and disposal.