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Vincristine (Oncovin®, Vincasar PFS®)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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  • Vincristine belongs to a group of medications known as vinca alkaloids and is obtained from the plant Cantharanthus roseus.
  • The drug is commonly used in the treatment of cancer. One of the hallmarks of cancer is the speed at which cancer cells divide.
  • Vincristine will bind to the proteins of actively dividing cells, preventing cell division and resulting in cell death.
  • Since cancer cells tend to divide rapidly, the drug will primarily effect these cells. Unfortunately, certain other body cells also divide rapidly, such a hair and gastrointestinal lining cells, resulting in effects on these sites of the body as well.
  • Vincristine has been shown to induce the release of already existing platelets from the bone marrow in dogs but the exact way this accomplished is not fully understood.
  • Vincristine is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.
  • This drug is not approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.

    Brand Name or Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Oncovin® (Lilly), Vincasar PFS® (Adria) and generics
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Vincristine

  • Vincristine is used to treat malignant cancers of the lymphoid and blood systems. It has also been used to treat hemangiosarcoma and transmissible venereal tumor.
  • Vincristine is also used to treat immune-mediated platelet disorders.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, vincristine can cause side effects in some animals. As with other cancer treating drugs, vincristine is a strong drug and the potential side effects can be serious.
  • Vincristine should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Vincristine should be avoided in animals with liver disease, low white blood cell counts, active infections or disease of the nervous system.
  • Vincristine may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with vincristine.
  • Toxic effects of vincristine can affect the nervous system, resulting in weakness, collapse or seizure.
  • This drug has been shown to suppress the immune system in some animals.
  • Vincristine may cause hair loss, vomiting, nausea or diarrhea.
  • This medication should only be given intravenous. If injected outside the vein, significant inflammation, including skin necrosis or sloughing, may occur.

    How Vincristine is Supplied

  • Vincristine is available in injectable form only at a concentration of 1 mg/ml in 1ml, 2 ml and 5 ml vials.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian. Due to potential for complications, this medication is only administered in a hospital setting.
  • Vincristine is commonly used in combination with other drugs to treat cancerous processes at a dose of 0.5 to 0.75 mg/m2 intravenous every 7 to 14 days in dogs.
  • In cats, vincristine is dosed at 0.125 mg per pound (0.25 mg/kg) IV every 7 to 14 days.
  • For immune-mediated platelet disorders, vincristine is dosed for dogs at 0.005 to 0.025 mg per pound (0.01 to 0.05 mg/kg) every 4 to 7 days.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects.

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