Nilotinib (Generic Name)

Other Names: Tasigna®

About This Drug

Nilotinib is used to treat cancer. It is given by mouth (orally).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding.
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased appetite (decreased hunger)
  • Constipation (not able to move bowels)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
  • Generalized weakness and discomfort (aches or pains)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tiredness
  • High blood pressure. Your doctor will check your blood pressure as needed.
  • Fever

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Hair loss. Most often hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is done.
  • Effects on the nerves are called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness, tingling, or pain in your hands and feet. It may be hard for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk as usual. The effect on the nerves may get worse with more doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it does not get better in all people.
  • This drug may affect how your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked as needed. 
  • Changes in the tissue of the heart. Some changes may happen that can cause your heart to have less ability to pump blood. Your heart function will be checked as needed. Your heart tissue can be harmed. This may cause your heart to beat in a way that is not normal. Your doctor may order an EKG to check this.
  • Electrolyte changes. Your blood will be checked for electrolyte changes as needed.
  • Changes in your liver function. Your doctor will check your liver function as needed.
  • Changes in your vision
  • Trouble breathing because of fluid build-up in your lungs
  • Trouble sleeping

Treating Side Effects

  • If you are dizzy, get up slowly after sitting or lying.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicines that are available to help stop or lessen constipation.
  • If you are not able to move your bowels, check with your doctor or nurse before you use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories.
  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids each day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • If you get a rash do not put anything on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen the loose bowel movements.
  • If you have numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.
  • Talk with your nurse about getting a wig before you lose your hair.  Also, call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 to find out information about the “Look Good, Feel Better” program close to where you live. It is a free program where women getting chemotherapy can learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.
  • Damage to the heart is rare. Your doctor will check your heart function as needed. 

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are known interactions of nilotinib with grapefruit. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this drug.
  • Talk with your doctor about taking St. John’s Wort, garlic, ginseng, and ginkgo. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's help.
  • Drugs that treat heartburn and stomach upset such Maalox®, Mylanta®, Protonix®, Nexium®, Prilosec®, Pepcid®, Tagamet®, and Zantac® may interact with nilotinib. Call your doctor to find out what drug you may take to help with heartburn or stomach upset.

Important Information

  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this drug.
  • Take on empty stomach. Avoid eating food for at least 2 hours before and 1 hour after taking this medicine.
  • Swallow whole with water. Do not chew, break, or crush.
  • If you cannot swallow the capsule whole, open the capsule and sprinkle onto 1 teaspoon of applesauce. Swallow right away.
  • Store Tasigna at room temperature between 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose, just take your next dose at your regular time. Do not take 2 doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Rash or itching
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way (palpitations)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Pain when passing urine; blood in urine
  • Pain in your lower back or side
  • Feeling confused or agitated
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. The pain may go away and come back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes pain is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Symptoms of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, mostly on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, bad headache with no known cause.  If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911. 
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if any of these symptoms happen:

  • Change in hearing, ringing in the ears
  • Decreased urine
  • Unusual thirst or passing urine often
  • Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
  • Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Heavy menstrual period that lasts longer than normal
  • Numbness, tingling, decreased feeling or weakness in fingers, toes, arms, or legs
  • Trouble walking or changes in the way you walk, feeling clumsy when buttoning clothes, opening jars, or other routine hand motions
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week (fluid retention)
  • Lasting loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in a week
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities
  • Headache that does not go away
  • Painful, red, or swollen areas on your hands or feet.
  • No bowel movement for 3 days or you feel uncomfortable
  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities

Reproduction Concerns 

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
  • Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

Revised November 2014

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