Antineoplastic agents

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Question

What is Suramin?

Answer

Suramin is an anti-neoplastic agent that has been used in the treatment of several infectious diseases, including African sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis), a protozoan infection. African sleeping sickness is caused by an infection of the protozoa Trypanosoma, which can be contracted from a bite from a tsetse fly. Suramin treatment focuses on a particular stage of trypanosomiasis and is not effective if the protozoa has infected the central nervous system. Suramin also has been used to treat river blindness (onchocerciasis), although it is now used less frequently for this purpose because of recent studies on its toxicity. Research also is being conducted on suramin's usefulness in treating people with different types of cancer. Suramin is only available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an investigational drug.

What should I know about Suramin before receiving it?

Before you start suramin treatment, tell your doctor about any allergies or medical conditions you have. Your doctor especially needs to know if you have a history of liver disease or malfunction, kidney disease, hypoalbuminemia (severely low levels of albumin in the blood), malnourishment or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or wish to become pregnant. Because the effects of suramin on pregnancy are not known, treatment is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. It is important to tell your doctor about all of the medications you are taking before you start suramin treatment, especially if you take any of the following drugs: clozapine, carbamazepine and valproic acid derivatives. If you need to start another medication during suramin treatment, make sure to clear it first with your doctor.

What are the side effects of Suramin?

Suramin treatment may cause a number of side effects, including an allergic reaction, such as hives, skin rash or swelling of the face, tongue or throat. Seek immediate medical care if you experience any of these reactions. Also, contact your doctor if you have any of the following severe side effects: stinging, numbness or burning of the skin, lightheadedness, muscle or joint pain, severe nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, changes in vision, tender glands in the neck, armpits or groin, mouth ulcers or sores, watery or swollen eyes, unusual bruising or bleeding, discoloration of the skin, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), changes in heartbeat, cold clammy skin, fever or convulsions. Suramin treatment also may cause milder side effects that do not require medical attention, unless they worsen or persist. These include: metallic taste in the mouth, fever, abdominal pain and general discomfort. Tell your doctor if these side effects worsen or if you have side effects that are not on this list.

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