How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Dacarbazine belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications called antineoplastics. It kills cancer cells by interfering with their growth and reproduction. Dacarbazine is used alone or in combination with other antineoplastic medications to treat metastatic malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer).

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are receiving this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop receiving this medication without consulting your doctor.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each vial of sterile lyophilized powder for reconstitution contains dacarbazine 600 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: citric acid, mannitol, and sodium hydroxide or citric acid (as pH adjuster).

How should I use this medication?

The recommended dose of dacarbazine is based on body weight or body size. The appropriate dose of dacarbazine is often given once daily for 5 or 10 days depending on the dose. After 3 weeks, the dose may be repeated if necessary.

Dacarbazine is injected into a vein through a site on your skin that has been specially prepared for this purpose. Very careful handling of this medication is required. It is always given under the supervision of a doctor in a hospital or similar setting with access to sterile equipment for preparation.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are receiving the medication without consulting your doctor.

As well as interfering with the growth and reproduction of cancer cells, dacarbazine can interfere with some of your normal cells. This can cause a number of side effects such as hair loss and mouth sores. Dacarbazine often causes nausea and vomiting, but it is important to keep using this medication even if you feel ill, unless otherwise directed by your doctor. The feeling of nausea usually lessens within 2 days. Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can advise you on how to reduce the effects of nausea and vomiting. Keep track of any side effects and report them to your doctor, as suggested in the section "What side effects are possible with this medication?"

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Dacarbazine should not be used by anyone who:

  • is allergic to dacarbazine or to any of the ingredients of the medication
  • has had severe bone marrow suppression

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • appetite loss
  • bumpy, itchy, red rash
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness when getting up from a lying or sitting position
  • face flushing
  • face numbness
  • fatigue
  • flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, muscle aches, general feeling of unwellness)
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • nausea and vomiting that lessens after 1 to 2 days
  • temporary hair loss

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • sores in the mouth and on the lips

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • black or tarry stool, or blood in the urine
  • chest pain
  • cough or hoarseness with fever or chills
  • face swelling
  • fever or chills
  • lower back or side pain with fever or chills
  • pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • painful or difficult urination with fever or chills
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach pain
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • yellow eyes or skin

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions, including difficulty breathing or swelling of the throat and mouth, can occur with this medication.

Blood clotting: This medication can reduce the number of platelet cells in the blood. Platelets help the blood to clot, and a shortage could make you bleed more easily. Tell your doctor of any signs that your blood is not clotting as quickly. Such symptoms may include black and tarry stools, blood in the urine, easy bruising, or cuts that won't stop bleeding.

Infection: As well as killing cancer cells, this medication can reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). Avoid contact with people who have contagious infections and tell your doctor if you begin to notice signs of an infection, such as fever or chills.

Kidney and liver function: This medication can impair kidney and liver function. Your doctor will monitor you for this with blood tests.

Pregnancy: There are no adequate studies of use of this medication by pregnant women. This medication should not be given during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while receiving this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if dacarbazine passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are receiving this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children.

Seniors: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for seniors.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between dacarbazine and any of the following:

  • allopurinol
  • azathioprine
  • bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine
  • barbiturates (e.g., phenobarbital)
  • echinacea
  • fotemustine
  • interleukin-2
  • leflunomide
  • levodopa
  • live vaccines
  • mercaptopurine
  • other cancer medications
  • phenytoin
  • pimecrolimus
  • rifampin
  • tacrolimus

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.