This leaflet provides information for patients having treatment with Durvalumab. The leaflet will explain what Durvalumab is, when and how it is given. It will also tell you about common side effects that you may experience. Contact telephone numbers and details of how to obtain further information on Durvalumab are given at the end of the leaflet.
What is Durvalumab and why am I having it?
Durvalumab is a treatment which helps your immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells, called Immunotherapy. Durvalumab is used to treat your type of cancer, but it is not a chemotherapy drug.
Durvalumab is licensed for use in US but not yet in UK. It has been approved as safe to be used for your cancer, however. We are awaiting its license in the UK. The side effects listed in this leaflet are those reported in clinical trials. However, there may be other unreported side effects that are not included in this leaflet.
How often will I receive Durvalumab?
For this treatment to be most effective, it is given at specific time intervals. It is usual to have Durvalumab every 2 weeks. Your doctor will discuss with you how long you will have to continue having the treatment.
How often will I see the specialist team?
You will need to be seen in the outpatient clinic every 2 to 8 weeks. At each outpatient clinic the medical team or specialist nurse will check how you are feeling and discuss any problems you may have.
You will have regular blood tests and we will check how you are feeling and discuss any problems you may have. This is so we can check how the treatment is affecting you. If your blood results are satisfactory, your treatment will be given.
How is Durvalumab given?
Durvalumab is given through a drip into a vein in the back of your hand or arm.
Where will my treatment be given?
The treatments will be given in the day case treatment areas at Velindre or possibly in one of the outreach clinics.
How long will I be in the hospital?
The Durvalumab treatment is given over 1 hour, however please allow approximately 2 hours for your appointment.
Can I bring relatives and friends with me?
You are welcome to bring someone to stay with you during your treatment. Space is limited so there is not usually room for more than one person. Treatment areas are not suitable for young children.
Reactions during the treatment
If you experience any of the following during the treatment please tell your nurse straight away:
If any of these occur we will slow down or stop the Durvalumab until you feel better. The treatment can then start again, usually without any further problems.
What are the possible side effects?
Most of the side effects happen because Durvalumab affects the immune system causing inflammation of other parts of the body such as the skin, the bowels and hormone producing glands. Most, if not all severe side effects can be controlled by the use of steroid medication immediately either as tablets or through a drip. Hospital admission may sometimes become necessary, however, for severe immune related reactions.
Mostly side effects are mild and can be easily managed at home. But it is important that if you have more severe side effects that you contact Velindre Cancer Centre. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet. Further details of when to contact Velindre are included in the individual side effects listed below. It is important you report any adverse effects that may or may not be listed in this leaflet, straight away, to ensure you receive early treatment.
Effects on the bowels
This treatment has been known to cause either constipation or diarrhoea.
If you have any of the symptoms below you must inform Velindre Cancer Centre immediately, the telephone numbers are at the end of the leaflet.
There is a risk of inflammation of the bowel (colitis) or rupture of the bowel (perforation) in a small minority of patients.
Effects on the skin
You may develop an itching skin rash which can be treated with moisturising cream. However if you get a severe skin reaction you may need to be treated in hospital.
Please contact Velindre Cancer Centre if:
Effects on your hormone glands
Durvalumab can cause inflammation of the glands that produce the different hormones (chemicals that control many of the body’s functions) in the body. Symptoms will vary depending on which glands are affected.
It is important to contact Velindre cancer Centre if you have the following :
Effects on the liver
This is rare, but if you are affected you may feel more tired than usual and may also feel sick or vomit. Your doctor will give you anti sickness medicine to take.
Please contact Velindre Cancer Centre if:
More severe effects on the liver are very rare but can be very serious so you should contact Velindre Cancer Centre if:
Shortness of breath or breathing problems
If you notice shortness of breath, cough or any breathing problems, please contact your doctor, specialist nurse, or ring the treatment helpline immediately. You will also be monitored at regular clinic visits for signs of inflammation of the lungs.
Tiredness and fatigue
Durvalumab can make you feel more tired than usual. It is important to listen to your body and rest if you need to, but carry out your normal activities if you feel able. Some people find it beneficial to take gentle exercise as well as taking rest. If you are sleeping more than 50% during the daytime you need to contact Velindre Cancer Centre on the number at the end of the leaflet.
Loss of appetite and nausea
You may experience a loss of appetite and some people may feel sick whilst receiving Durvalumab but this can usually be well controlled with anti-sickness medication. If you are sick more than once in 24 hours despite taking regular anti-sickness medicine, you should contact Velindre Cancer Centre for advice. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Myalgia (pain in the muscles)
Some patients may experience myalgia which is muscle or joint pain. If you already have painkillers at home you may find they relieve the pain. If this does not work please contact Velindre Cancer Centre. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Infections are very common with Durvalumab. Contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately if you develop any signs of infection, for example flu like symptoms.
You may be prone to both urine and chest infections, if you notice you are passing urine more frequently, any stinging or passing blood in your urine, or coughing green phelgm ring the telephone helpline in Velindre. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Other side effects:
You may have these additional side effects, if so please contact Velindre Cancer Centre:
You may also experience some swelling of your arms and legs due to the treatment.
It is important you do not become pregnant, breastfeed or father a child whilst having Durvalumab treatment and use contraception for at least 3 months after treatment has completed.
Side effects may continue for up to 6 months after treatment. If you have any side effects contact your consultant. If you are admitted to hospital or see your GP during this period, inform the doctor you have had Durvalumab, an immune therapy and give them your alert card.
Sometimes cancer drugs can have very serious side effects which can be life threatening. It is important to inform Velindre cancer centre if you are concerned about any side-effects.
A diagnosis of cancer can increase your risk of developing a blood clot (thrombosis), and having cancer treatment may increase this risk further. It is important to tell your doctor immediately if you have symptoms such as pain, redness and swelling in your leg, or breathlessness and chest pain.
Blood clots can be very serious. However, most clots can usually be successfully treated with drugs to thin the blood. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.
Manufacturer’s patient information leaflets
Velindre leaflets provide information about very common and common side-effects: for more information regarding the less common side-effects please refer to the manufacturers patient information leaflets, obtained from Velindre pharmacy. As durvalumab is not licensed in the UK yet, there is no information available on the internet at www.medicines.org.uk. at present, but this should be available at a later date. Sometimes patients may find these leaflets difficult to read however. Please ask if you would like a copy from your doctor or from Velindre pharmacy
Contact telephone numbers
Velindre Cancer Centre 029 2061 5888
If you are unwell at home and need immediate attention at any time of the day or night ask for the treatment helpline
Pharmacy department 029 2061 5888 ext 6223
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm for queries about your medicines
Tenovus freephone 0808 808 1010
This leaflet was written by health professionals. The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based. The leaflet has been approved by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and patients. It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.
Prepared February 2018
Updated April 2020