What is it?

Lenalidomide strictly speaking is not a chemotherapy drug and is call an immunomodulator drug. Chemotherapy drugs are directly toxic and kill cancer cells directly, whereas Lenalidomide works against cancer in a different way.


What is it used for?

It is used to treat myeloma and occasionally used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.


How does it work?

Lenalidomide works in a similar way to thalidomide, both drugs are called angiogenesis inhibitors. This means Lenalidomide stops new blood vessels from forming. Cancerous cells like normal cells need a good blood supply to survive. So when a cancer is growing it needs to form new blood vessels in order to grow. Lenalidomide blocks this and therefore helps to shrink the cancer.


How is it given?

Lenalidomide is given by mouth as a tablet. It is given alongside other anti-cancer or chemotherapy drugs.


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 marrow 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.


There is also an increased risk of developing a blood clot whilst taking Lenalidomide, therefore if you notice calf pain and swelling or become short of breath then contact us.

Patients can also become nauseated, have constipation and notice rashes. These can all be easily managed with additional medications.


Further information

Lenalidomide at Macmillian cancer support



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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