Bleomycin is an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug. It was discovered in 1962 by the Japanese scientist Hamao Umezawa.
It is used especially for solid tumors like lymphomas (Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s), testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, and cervical cancer.
Chemically, Bleomycin is classified as an antitumor antibiotic. It is made by the bacterium Streptomyces verticillus. The drug binds to the DNA of cancer cells. This mechanism prevents the cells from dividing and growing.
Bleomycin can be administered as a drip to the bloodstream or as an injection into a muscle. Sometime it may also be applied inside the abdomen, the chest, or even directly inside the tumor.
Usually, Bleomycin is part of a chemotherapy combination alongside other chemo drugs.
Tumors that spread to the lungs sometimes cause fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion). For this condition, bleomycin is placed in the space around the lungs to control the fluid.
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Common side effects are
- weight loss
- fever and chills
- rash, darkening of the skin, stretch marks on the skin, skin peeling, thickening of the skin
- hair loss
The major limitation of bleomycin therapy is pulmonary toxicity, which can be life-threatening in up to 10% of patients receiving the drug.