Aflibercept is a targeted (biological) therapy used to treat advanced cancer of the colon or rectum.
WHAT IS AFLIBERCEPT?
Aflibercept is only given to people who have already been treated with a medicine called oxaliplatin. It is administered alongside chemotherapy with irinotecan and fluorouracil. Aflibercept blocks the growth of new blood vessels in the tumor. If the supply of blood is lowered, the tumor may shrink or stop growing.
HOW IS AFLIBERCEPT ADMINISTERED?
Aflibercept is normally given in the chemotherapy day unit.
Either before the treatment or on the day it is given, a nurse will take a blood sample from you. This is to check the state of your blood. They will also test your urine and check your blood pressure.
You will also be able to see a doctor or nurse before having chemotherapy. They will ask you how you have been feeling. If the results of your blood test are good on the day of your treatment, the pharmacist will prepare aflibercept for you.
Aflibercept is usually given first, followed by chemotherapy. Your nurse will give you medication for nausea and, sometimes, steroids. The chemotherapy drugs are given in one of the following ways:
- a thin tube (line) that a nurse inserts into a vein in your arm or hand
- a tube that goes below the skin of your chest (central line)
- a thin tube that is placed in a vein in your arm and then goes up toward the chest (PICC)
Your nurse will give you aflibercept as a drip (perfusion) through a cannula or a line for about an hour. You will receive chemotherapy after the aflibercept.
WHILE AFLIBERCEPT IS BEING GIVEN TO YOU
Some people may have the following side effects while they are receiving the treatment:
Afibercept can cause an allergic reaction while it is being given. If you have an allergic reaction, it will be be treated quickly. The signs of a reaction may include the following: rash, itchiness, breathlessness; swelling in the face or lips; nausea; pain in the abdomen, back, or chest; or feeling unwell. Tell your nurse immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
YOUR TREATMENT COURSE
Aflibercept, together with chemotherapy, is given as part of a course or cycle, consisting of several treatment sessions and lasting for a few months. Each cycle normally lasts for 2 weeks. After 14 days, the second treatment cycle begins. This is the same as the first cycle.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF AFLIBERCEPT
Here, we explain the most common side effects of aflibercept. But we do not include all those that are unlikely to affect you.
You may experience some of the side effects mentioned here, though it is rare for a patient to have all of them. Always inform your doctor or nurse of the side effects you experience.
Your doctor can prescribe medication to help control some of the side effects. It is very important that you take your medication exactly as you are instructed. Doing so will increase the chance that it will work properly. Your nurse will advise you on managing the side effects. After your treatment has concluded, they will begin to get better.
RISK OF INFECTION
Aflibercept given in combination with chemotherapy may lower the number of white blood cells in your blood. This will make you more susceptible to infection. When the number of white blood cells is low, this is called neutropenia.
Get in touch with your hospital immediately if:
- your temperature goes above 38 ° C
- you suddenly feel unwell, even if your temperature is normal
- you have symptoms of infection, which may include sore throat, coughing, diarrhea, or the need to urinate frequently.
The number of white blood cells normally increases gradually, returning to normal before your next chemotherapy treatment. You will have a blood test done before having more chemotherapy. If your white blood cells are still low, your doctor may postpone the treatment for a short period of time.