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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Cytarabine (DepoCyt®, Cytosar-U®)


Brand Names: DepoCyt®, Cytosar-U®

Cytarabine is used in the treatment of certain types of leukemia. This drug is also known as Ara-C and cytosine arabinoside.

Cytarabine is in a class of drugs known as antimetabolites. These drugs are similar in structure to normal substances inside cells, which means that cells will readily incorporate these drugs inside. However, once the medicine is incorporated, the cell is unable to divide. There are many types of antimetabolites, categorized according to the substance with which they interact. Cytarabine is a pyrimidine antagonist.

This medication is given as infusion into a vein (intravenous), into a muscle (intramuscular), or directly into the spinal fluid (intraventricular or intrathecal infusion). The exact dose, schedule, and route of administration depends on the type of cancer being treated, how well the cancer is responding to the drug, height, weight, general health, and several other factors. Your doctor will determine the approach that is best for you

Cytarabine side effects

To prevent problematic interactions between cytarabine and other drugs, be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, and what other medications and supplements you are currently taking. You should also inform your doctor if you have or ever had liver tumor, liver disease, kidney disease, are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. During treatment with cytarabine, you should not receive any vaccinations without first speaking with your doctor.

Possible side effects of cytarabine may include:

  • Thinned or brittle hair
  • Headache
  • Weakness or aches
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Tingling in the hands or feet

Some of cytarbine’s side effects can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful urination or red urine
  • Black tarry stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Pain in the joints
  • Muscle weakness, difficulty walking or writing
  • Blurred vision

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Patients may experience additional effects not mentioned above.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team of cancer experts will explain each of the side effects of cytarabine with you in detail, as well as the side effects and expectations of all other medications planned as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Cytarabine for cancer treatment

Cytarabine is approved by the FDA for the following:

  • In combination with other anti-cancer drugs, for remission induction in acute non-lymphocytic leukemia and adult and pediatric patients
  • Prevention and treatment of meningeal leukemia, when given as an intrathecal infusion

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), our integrative approach to cancer treatment works to fight your disease on all fronts and ensures that you remain at the center of everything we do. We encourage participation from both you and your family to make certain you are comfortable with all decisions made regarding your treatment.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Cancer Treatment Centers of America assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.