Cytarabine is a chemotherapy drug used to treat certain kinds of cancer. Most commonly the drug is used to treat acute myeloid leukaemia. While it is effective against cancers, cytarabine also injures some normal, fast-growing cells across the body. As is common with most chemotherapy drugs, certain mild to severe side effects are associated with it.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a common bone marrow cancer that occurs most often in middle-aged adults. The disease causes defective white blood cells (WBCs) to be produced, and these then proliferate in the bloodstream, crowding out the normal leukocytes and the red blood cells needed to carry oxygen throughout the tissues. Since leukocytes are vital to the immune system, patients may suffer from more infections and general immunodeficiency. The non-Hodgkin lymphomas are a group of different malignancies of lymphatic cells. Drugs that treat these cancers target their cell cycles, the processes by which they reproduce.
Cytarabine is used alone or with other chemotherapy drugs to treat certain types of leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells), including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Cytarabine is also used alone or with other chemotherapy drugs to treat meningeal leukemia (cancer in the membrane that covers and protects the spinal cord and brain). It is in a class of medications called antimetabolites. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells in your body. This drug is given over a several month period and is placed into the body through injections into veins.
It is possible that those treated with Cytarabine will experience an allergic reaction to the drug. As a bone marrow suppressant, cytarabine can kill some some normal blood cells and prevent more of them from being made, resulting in anemia and immunodeficiency. The medication also can cause a severe decrease in the number of blood cells in your bone marrow. This may cause certain symptoms and may increase the risk that you will develop a serious infection or bleeding.