Folinic acid, also commonly referred to as calcium folinate or leucovorin, is not a chemotherapy drug, but it’s often given as part of chemotherapy treatment – either to make the chemotherapy more effective or to reduce the risk of side effects. This fact sheet has information about leucovorin when it’s given with the chemotherapy drugs fluorouracil (5FU) or methotrexate.
Leucovorin is often given with 5FU chemotherapy to treat cancers of the colon, rectum and other parts of the digestive system. Adding leucovorin has been shown to increase the effectiveness of the 5FU. Leucovorin may also be given with the chemotherapy drug tegafur-uracil, which is similar to 5FU.
Leucovorin is also commonly given with methotrexate chemotherapy, which is used to treat many different types of cancer. It’s mainly given with higher doses of methotrexate and can help reduce the side effects. It is sometimes known as ‘folinic acid rescue’.
Medications that treat cancer typically work by destroying abnormal cancer cells; however, in the process they may also damage healthy cells and result in potentially dangerous side effects, such as difficulty fighting off infections, anemia, increased risk of bruising or bleeding, and damage to the kidneys. Folinic acid is typically prescribed as part of a cancer treatment program because the drug has been found to be effective in some patients at preventing harmful cancer medication from damaging healthy cells, while still allowing the abnormal cancer cells to be destroyed.
Although calcium folinate(CAS No. 1492-18-8) is generally considered safe and effective at treating cancer treatment side effects, the medication may potentially cause some side effects of its own. These side effects may include hives, rash, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, or convulsions. It is usually recommended to seek immediate medical attention if any of these side effects occur since they can be potentially life-threatening; however, side effects from the medication tend to be rare.
Certain people are typically not advised to take folinic acid due to the preexisting conditions that may render the medication ineffective. People who are also suffering from kidney disease along with cancer, may have a higher amount of cancer medications in their systems because their kidneys may not able to remove it from the body in a timely manner; therefore, medications to fight against the side effects of cancer treatment may not be able to work as effectively against the higher amounts remaining in the body.