Vincristine side effects on Cancer Treatment and Patient Care

Vincristine side effects

Vincristine is a chemotherapy medication used in the treatment of various types of cancer. Like many cancer treatments, it can have significant side effects. These can range from mild to severe and may include:

Vincristine side effects
Vincristine side effects
  1. Peripheral Neuropathy: This is a common side effect and presents as numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands and feet. It can also lead to muscle weakness and difficulty with fine motor tasks.
  2. Hair Loss (Alopecia): Vincristine can cause hair loss, which may be partial or complete, affecting the hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, and body hair.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting: Chemotherapy can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. Medications are often given to help prevent or manage these symptoms.
  4. Constipation: Vincristine can slow down the movement of the intestines, leading to constipation. It is important to manage this with dietary changes, fluids, and sometimes laxatives.
  5. Bone Marrow Suppression: Vincristine can decrease the production of blood cells by the bone marrow, leading to anemia, leukopenia (decreased white blood cells), and thrombocytopenia (decreased platelets). This can increase the risk of infections, bruising, and bleeding.
  6. Neurotoxicity: Beyond peripheral neuropathy, vincristine can also cause more severe neurotoxic effects such as muscle cramps, difficulty walking, and even paralysis if the dose is too high.
  7. Liver and Kidney Toxicity: Vincristine can potentially harm the liver and kidneys, so blood tests to monitor these organs are often done during treatment.
  8. Allergic Reactions: Although rare, allergic reactions to vincristine can occur and may range from mild skin rashes to severe anaphylaxis.
  9. Tumor Lysis Syndrome: This is a metabolic condition that can occur when cancer cells are killed off rapidly, leading to an increase in uric acid, potassium, and phosphate levels in the blood.
  10. Other Side Effects: Fatigue, mouth sores, changes in taste, and mood changes can also occur.

Vincristine is often used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs as part of a treatment regimen.

Here are some of the cancers for which vincristine is commonly used:

  1. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL): Vincristine is a key component in the treatment of ALL, particularly in children.
  2. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Vincristine may be included in some treatment regimens for AML.
  3. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Vincristine is used in combination with other drugs to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  4. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Vincristine is used in the treatment of both adult and pediatric Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.
  5. Neuroblastoma: This is a type of cancer that forms in nerve tissue and commonly affects young children. Vincristine is often part of the treatment plan.
  6. Ewing Sarcoma: Vincristine is used in combination with other drugs to treat this type of bone cancer.
  7. Rhabdomyosarcoma: This is a soft tissue sarcoma that can affect children and adults, and vincristine is used in its treatment.
  8. Multiple Myeloma: Vincristine may be used in combination with other therapies for the treatment of multiple myeloma.
some of the cancers for which vincristine is commonly used


The pharmacology of vincristine involves its mechanism of action and how it interacts with the body to treat cancer. Vincristine is a microtubule-destabilizing agent, which means it interferes with the normal function of microtubules, structures that are essential for cell division and other cellular processes.

Here’s a detailed explanation pharmacology:

  1. Mechanism of Action: Vincristine binds to the tubulin molecules that make up microtubules, preventing their assembly into the mitotic spindle, which is necessary for chromosome separation during cell division. This inhibition of spindle formation, known as mitotic arrest, stops the cell cycle at metaphase and prevents cell division (mitosis). Since cancer cells divide more rapidly than normal cells, they are more sensitive to the effects of vincristine.
  2. Cellular Uptake: Vincristine is taken up by cells via active transport, particularly through the P-glycoprotein (P-gp) multidrug resistance pump. This pump is responsible for removing foreign substances, including many chemotherapy drugs, from cells. However, once inside the cell, vincristine is sequestered in the cytoplasm due to its binding to tubulin.
  3. Pharmacokinetics: Vincristine has a complex pharmacokinetic profile. It is administered intravenously and does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Vincristine is extensively distributed throughout the body, with a high volume of distribution. It is metabolized in the liver, and the metabolites are excreted primarily in the bile. However, vincristine has a slow elimination rate, and its concentration in the body can remain elevated for a prolonged period due to its entrapment in cells.
  4. Resistance: Some cancer cells can develop resistance to vincristine, which can limit its effectiveness. This resistance is often due to increased expression of the P-glycoprotein drug efflux pump, which pumps vincristine out of the cell before it can exert its anti-cancer effects.

vincristine’s pharmacology is characterized by its ability to disrupt microtubule formation, leading to mitotic arrest and inhibition of cancer cell growth. Its specific mechanism of action and its unique pharmacokinetic properties contribute to its effectiveness as a chemotherapy agent while also leading to a range of potential side effects.

The pharmacology of vincristine

Dosage and administration

The dosage and administration of vincristine are determined by the patient’s diagnosis, overall health, the type and stage of cancer, and whether it is being used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs. Vincristine is typically administered by a healthcare professional in a hospital or clinic setting due to its potential for serious side effects and the need for careful monitoring.

Here is a general outline of the usage and dosage for vincristine:

  • Administration: Vincristine is given intravenously (IV), usually as a bolus injection or infusion. It is important that the drug is not injected directly into a vein, as this can cause irritation or damage to the surrounding tissue.
  • Dosage: The dosage of vincristine varies depending on the patient’s body surface area, the specific cancer being treated, and the treatment regimen. The typical adult dosage range is between 1.4 to 2.0 mg/m², given once weekly. For pediatric patients, dosages are also calculated based on body surface area and can vary widely depending on the age of the child and the protocol being used.
  • Dilution: Vincristine is usually diluted in a solution such as saline or dextrose before administration. The diluted solution should be used within a few hours and protected from light.
  • Monitoring: Because vincristine can cause significant side effects, patients receiving the drug are monitored closely for signs of neuropathy, bone marrow suppression, and other potential complications. Blood tests are often done to check blood cell counts and liver and kidney function.
  • Precautions: Vincristine can have severe side effects, including nerve damage if it leaks out of the vein during administration. Healthcare providers take precautions to ensure that the drug is properly injected into the bloodstream.
  • Adjustments: Dosage adjustments may be necessary based on the patient’s response to the drug and their overall health status, including any changes in kidney or liver function.

It is crucial that vincristine be administered by trained healthcare professionals who are familiar with its use and the necessary precautions. The dosing and administration of vincristine should always be determined by a oncologist or hematologist based on the specific needs of the patient and the treatment protocol in place.


In the United States, the primary manufacturers include:

  1. Pfizer Inc. – As one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, Pfizer produces and sells vincristine.
  2. Teva Pharmaceuticals – This Israeli pharmaceutical company has a significant presence in the United States and manufactures and sells vincristine.
  3. Hikma Pharmaceuticals – Headquartered in the UK, Hikma has production facilities in the United States and provides vincristine.
  4. Fresenius Kabi – This German healthcare company also has operations in the United States, producing and selling vincristine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top