What is it?

Melphalan 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 the chemotherapy which is why patients can get side effects.


What is it used for?

Melphalan is used to treat myeloma in addition to several other forms of cancer. It is also used occasionally to treat polycythaemia rubra vera.


How does it work?

Melphalan acts by binding to DNA within cancerous cells. It disrupts the DNA and stops the cancerous cell from replicating and growing.


How is it given?

Melphalan can be given by mouth as a tablet or can be injected into a vein. If melphalan is given by injection then it is given on the Haematology Day Unit.


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.

Melphalan can also cause nausea and tiredness.


Further information

Melphalan at Macmillian cancer support



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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