This leaflet provides information on a course of treatment called doxorubicin and olaratumab. The leaflet will explain what this 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 doxorubicin are given at the end of the leaflet.
This leaflet should be read alongside the ‘General information for patients receiving chemotherapy’ leaflet. If you haven’t received this leaflet please ask your nurse for a copy.
What is doxorubicin chemotherapy?
Doxorubicin is a chemotherapy treatment that is given through a drip.
What is olaratumab?
Olaratumab is an antibody, called a human monoclonal antibody, which attaches itself to cancer cells and stops them from growing. It is not chemotherapy.
Why am I having doxorubicin and olaratumab treatment?
Your doctor has prescribed the treatment because it has been found to be more effective in treating your type of cancer.
How often will I receive my chemotherapy?
For this treatment to be most effective, it is given at specific time intervals. These are known as cycles. Your treatment is on a 28 day cycle. You will receive both olaratumab and doxorubicin on day 1 and only olaratumab on day 8. Your doctor will discuss the exact number of cycles you will receive.
How often will I see the specialist team?
You will see the specialist team before each cycle, every 28 days. In clinic you will have 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 prescribed for day 1. You will also have blood tests for day 8 chemotherapy, the day before. We will give you your blood forms when you come for treatment.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Your chemotherapy appointment will usually be on a different day to your clinic appointment. Day 1 treatment takes approximately 4 hours and day 8 treatment takes approximately 3 hours. Please allow an extra 30 minutes for your first treatment. If you have scalp cooling on day 1, please allow an additional hour.
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.
How will my treatment be given?
Your treatment is given through a drip into a vein in the back of your hand or arm. Alternatively, if needed, it may be suggested that a fine tube called a PICC is inserted into one of the large veins in your upper arm. This line can remain in place for the whole of your treatment. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this in more detail if required and we have a leaflet that tells you more about PICC lines.
What are the possible side effects?
There are a number of possible side effects which can occur with this treatment. The doctor, nurses and pharmacists can give you advice or answer any questions you may have.
Reactions during olaratumab treatment.
Most side effects which can happen with administration of olaratumab occur during the first infusion when you received this into the vein. However this can sometimes occur after the first infusion also.
If you experience any of the following during the treatment, please tell your nurse straight away:
We will be able to give you medication to stop the symptoms. Rarely a reaction to treatment can be life threatening. However, most often it is easily reversible if treated immediately.
You are at an increased risk of picking up infections because your white blood cells which help fight infections can be reduced by this treatment.
If you develop an infection whilst your white blood cells are low, you are at risk of sepsis, this can be life threatening.
Contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately if you develop any signs of infection, for example flu like symptoms or a temperature above 37.5°centigrade or below 35.5°centigrade. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Unfortunately you will lose your hair with doxorubicin chemotherapy. Your hair will grow back when your treatment has finished. A method known as ‘scalp cooling’ or ‘cold capping’ can sometimes be used to prevent hair loss. If you would like a wig, more information is provided in the coping with hair loss leaflet. If you would like more information about scalp cooling or wigs please speak to your nurse.
We have a leaflet that tells you more on coping with hair loss. Please ask your nurse if you would like a copy.
Nausea and vomiting are uncommon these days as we will give you anti-sickness medicines which are usually extremely effective. If you are sick more than once in 24 hours despite taking regular anti-sickness medicine when you are at home after your chemotherapy treatment, contact Velindre Cancer Centre for advice. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Tiredness and fatigue
Chemotherapy 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 feel very tired, it is not recommended that you drive or operate machinery.
Your mouth may become sore or you may notice small ulcers. Please follow the advice on caring for your mouth in the general chemotherapy leaflet. Your doctor may prescribe mouthwashes or medication to prevent or clear any infection.
Myalgia (pain in the muscles)
Some patients may experience myalgia due to the olaratumab, 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.
Colour changes to your urine
Doxorubicin will harmlessly discolour your urine red for a day after your chemotherapy. If this lasts for more than 24 hours please contact Velindre Cancer Centre.
Effects on your heart
Doxorubicin can cause heart problems. If you have an existing heart problem please tell your doctor before you start treatment. Please tell your doctor if you notice any breathlessness, palpitations or chest pain.
Skin and tissue damage
Doxorubicin may damage the skin and surrounding area if it leaks outside of your vein. This is known as extravasation. It is extremely rare but it is important that you tell us immediately if you notice any swelling, pain or burning at the site of the drip. If this occurs whilst the chemotherapy is being given, tell your nurse. If you notice pain, swelling or redness when you’re at home please contact us immediately. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Diarrhoea is not common with this treatment. However, if you have four or more bowel movements in 24 hours above what is normal for you please contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
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.
Other side effects
Sometimes patients experience headaches with this treatment.
Women sometimes find that chemotherapy treatment affects their periods. They could become heavier, lighter or even stop altogether.
It is important you do not become pregnant or father a child whilst having treatment and for 3 months afterwards as this could damage the unborn baby. Equally it is not recommended to breast feed, during treatment or for 3 months afterwards.
Sometimes cancer drugs can have very serious side effects which rarely can be life threatening. It is important to inform Velindre cancer centre if you are concerned about any side-effects.
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 and/or on the internet at www.medicines.org.uk. 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
Ask for the treatment helpline if you are unwell at home and need immediate attention at any time of the day or night. For example you should phone if you:
Pharmacy department 029 2061 5888 ext 6223
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm for queries about your medicines
Tenovus freephone 0808 808 1010
This information is also available in Welsh
This leaflet was written by health professionals. The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based. It has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients. It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.