Asparaginase

Asparaginase treats a certain type of leukemia. Tell your doctor right away if you notice a fever and sore throat.

Asparaginase Overview

Reviewed: November 14, 2012
Updated: 

Asparaginase is a prescription medicine approved for use with other chemotherapy drugs to treat a certain type of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL is a type of cancer of the white blood cells). Asparaginase belongs to a group of drugs called enzymes. This specific enzyme works by interfering with natural substances necessary for cancer cell growth.

Asparaginase comes as a solution that is injected into a vein (IV) or muscle (IM) by a healthcare provider at a medical facility.

Common side effects of asparaginase include serious hypersensitivity reactions, nausea, vomiting, and elevated blood sugar levels.

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  • Other
  • Lymphoma
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-lymphoma

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Uses of Asparaginase

Asparaginase is a prescription medicine approved for use with other chemotherapy drugs to treat a certain type of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL; a type of cancer of the white blood cells).

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Asparaginase Brand Names

Asparaginase may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Asparaginase Drug Class

Asparaginase is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Asparaginase

Contact your doctor or seek emergency medical attention right away if you experience any of the following serious side effects:

  • swelling of the face, arms or legs, with or without pain in the arm or leg
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • severe headache, seizures, confusion, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • chest pain
  • severe abdominal (stomach) pain that begins in the stomach area, but may spread to the back
  • excessive thirst or urination
  • dark colored urine

Other more common, less severe side effects of this medication include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • tiredness
  • fever
  • headache

This is not a complete list of asparaginase side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

 

Asparaginase Interactions

No asparaginase drug interactions have been identified, however, you should tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Not all drug interactions are known or reported and new drug interactions are continually being reported.

Asparaginase Precautions

Do not receive asparaginase if you are allergic to asparaginase or pegaspargase (Oncaspar).

Serious allergic reactions can occur in people who receive asparaginase. The risk of serious allergic reactions is higher in people who have previously received asparaginase or similar medicines. Get emergency medical attention if you develop hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. You may have an allergic reaction to this medication at any time, even if you previously received asparaginase without reaction.

Blood clotting problems can occur with asparaginase therapy including a serious condition in which a vein of the brain becomes clotted. Tell your doctor right away if you experience sudden headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech or balance.

Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), sometimes severe or causing death, can occur with asparaginase therapy. Severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back as well as nausea and vomiting may be signs of pancreatitis. Tell your doctor right away if you experience these symptoms.

Glucose intolerance, or impaired insulin secretion and impaired suppression of liver glucose output, has occurred with asparaginase use.

Asparaginase may cause damage or injury to the liver (hepatotoxicity). Tell your doctor right away if you experience yellowing of the skin or eyes or dark colored urine.

Patients have been reported to develop posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). PRES is a neurological disorder with symptoms of headache, seizures, visual disturbances, altered mental status, and hypertension. If PRES is suspected or diagnosed, therapy with Elspar is recommended to be temporarily stopped.

 

 

 

 

Asparaginase Food Interactions

Medicines can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of asparaginase there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving asparaginase.

 

Inform MD

Before receiving asparaginase, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions including if you:

  • are allergic to asparaginase, pegaspargase (Oncaspar), or any other medicines
  • have or ever had pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), liver disease, diabetes, blood clots, or severe bleeding
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

 

Asparaginase and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X, are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

This medication falls into category C. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of asparaginase in pregnant women. Animal studies have not been done with asparaginase. It is not known whether asparaginase can cause harm to the unborn baby when given to a pregnant woman. Asparaginase should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.

Asparaginase and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if asparaginase is excreted in human breast milk or if it will harm your nursing baby.

Asparaginase Usage

Asparaginase comes as a solution that is injected into a vein (IV) or muscle (IM) by a healthcare provider at a medical facility.

Asparaginase Overdose

If asparaginase is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.