Sunitinib (Generic Name)

Other Names: Sutent

About This Drug

This drug 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.
  • High blood pressure; Your doctor will check your blood pressure as needed.
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
  • Darkening of the skin or nails. Changes to the color of your skin.
  • Hand-and-foot syndrome: The palms of your hands or soles of your feet may tingle, become numb, painful, swollen, or red.
  • Feeling tired
  • This drug may affect how your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked as needed.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Effects on the heart: This drug can weaken the heart and lower heart function. Your heart function will be checked as needed. You may have trouble catching your breath, mainly during activities. You may also have trouble breathing while lying down, and have swelling in your ankles.
  • Slow wound healing. It should not be given within 28 days of surgery or any test or procedure that needs conscious sedation. If you must have emergency surgery or have an accident that results in a wound, tell the doctor that you are on sunitinib. Call your cancer doctor as soon as possible for further orders.
  • Changes in your liver function. Your doctor will check your liver function as needed.
  • Skin rashes, sometimes severe, have happened with the use of this drug.  Please tell your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you get a severe rash from this drug.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis are rare but may happen in some patients.  Signs of allergic reactions to this drug may be swelling of the face, feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling, trouble breathing, rash, itching, fever, chills, feeling dizzy, and/or feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way.  If this happens, do not take another dose of this drug. You should get urgent medical treatment.

Treating Side Effects

  • 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
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen the loose bowel movements.
  • 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.

Important Information

  • Swallow the medicine while. Do not chew, break or crush it
  • You can take this medicine with or without food. If you have nausea, take it with food.
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Do not take it if it is close to your next dose. Just take the next dose at your normal time. Do not take more than 1 dose at a time. Please tell your doctor about any missed doses.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are known interactions of sunitinib with food and with some other medicines. Ask your doctor what over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you can take for fever, headache and muscle and joint pain. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice.
    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.

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 above
  • Chills
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • 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 feeling lightheaded
  • 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.
  • 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 September 2014

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com