Bortezomib (Velcade)


What is it?

Velcade is a chemotherapy drug, see chemotherapy sheet for background information. Chemotherapy kills cancerous cells which divide and grow rapidly. However healthy cells which grow quickly are also affected by chemotherapy which is why patients can get side effects.


What is it used for?

It is used in myeloma which has not responded to the first treatment course. It can be used by itself, so no other chemotherapy drugs are used at the same time. However it is usually combined with steroids and other medications.


How does it work?

Velcade blocks messages inside cells which are important for cell growth.


How is it given?

Velcade needs to be injected into a vein. This is either by a small tube going into a vein called a cannula, which is removed after the injection is finished. The other option is to have the drug given by a long line, which is a longer tube inserted into a vein and is kept in place for a few weeks.


What are the most important side effects?

The most important side effect to be aware of is neutropenic sepsis. This will be explained to you before you start treatment. Chemotherapy affects the bone marrowBone marrow is a soft spongy material which is inside bones. The outside of bones are hard and protective but the inside plays a different role. Bone marrow makes new blood cells. so that blood cells are not produced in the normal way. This is only temporary, but leaves the body vulnerable to infection as the immune system will not be able to fight against infection in the normal way. Therefore please read the neutropenic sepsis page for full information about what to do if you feel unwell.

Velcade can also affect the nerves in your hands and feet. If you develop tingling, pain or numbness in your hands inform you doctor.

Like most chemotherapy drugs Velcade can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea. Other medications are often used when chemotherapy is given to minimise these side effects. Let your doctor know if you are troubled by these side effects.
Other possible side effects are tiredness and loss of appetite, dizziness, cramps and mood changes.

These may sound like a lot of side effects but please speak to the nursing staff or doctors if you are worried or concerned at any point.


Further information

Bortezomib at Macmillian cancer support



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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