Generic Name Brand Name
etoposide Etopophos, Toposar, Vepesid, VP-16

Etoposide may be given as an intravenous (IV) injection or as a pill.

How It Works

Etoposide blocks the action of an enzyme in the cell. This causes strands of DNA to untangle during cell division, resulting in cell death.

Why It Is Used

Etoposide slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body. It is used to treat many kinds of cancer, including small-cell lung cancer, some leukemias, lymphoma, testicular cancer, and Kaposi's sarcoma.

How Well It Works

Etoposide is an effective antitumor medication. However, the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medication slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

Side effects are common with etoposide and include:

  • Decreased white blood cell counts. Red blood cell and platelet counts can also be reduced by etoposide.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Hair loss (alopecia). This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis), difficulty swallowing, and a sore throat.
  • Diarrhea.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Etoposide should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

You may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after taking this medication. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Etoposide can cause birth defects. Do not use this drug if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.

Women taking this medication may experience menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Last Updated: January 26, 2009

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