This page contains brief details about the drug , it's indication, dosage & administaration, mechanism of action, related brands with strength, warnings and common side effects.

Background and Date of Approval

Irinotecan is an anti-cancer drug that belongs to the camptothecin analogs. The FDA approved it on August 24, 2004, to treat colon and rectum metastatic carcinoma.

Mechanism of Action of undefined

Irinotecan works by converting its active metabolite with the help of liver enzymes and inhibits the Topoisomerase I enzyme. This causes damage to the DNA synthesis and its replication, thus preventing the cancer cells from growing and spreading.

Uses of undefined

Irinotecan is a topoisomerase enzyme inhibitor used as a first-line therapy in combination with other anti-cancer medications to treat colon and rectum cancers and extensive-stage non-small cell lung cancer. It is also indicated to treat gastric cancers. Irinotecan is currently under investigation to treat ovarian and cervical cancer.

undefined Drug administaration and Dosage available

Irinotecan is a prescription drug available as an injection to be administered for over 90 minutes intravenously (into the vein), followed by other chemotherapeutic drugs. The drug will be prescribed and administered by the healthcare professional. It is normally administered no more than once a week, according to the schedule, on which days you receive irinotecan and on which days you dont receive the medication. Your doctor will determine the optimum schedule for you. Antiemetic medications may be given priorly to prevent nausea and vomiting associated with the treatment.  

Warnings, Precautions and Side Effects of undefined


Irinotecan is intended to cause severe diarrhea.  Report to the physician immediately if you face symptoms of diarrhea for the first time during treatment; black or bloody stools; symptoms of dehydration, inability to take fluids by mouth due to nausea or vomiting; or inability to get diarrhea under control within 24 hours. The drug may cause severe myelosuppression. Inform your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms related to myelosuppression, such as pale skin, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and cough.


It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant or planning for pregnancy. Women should not get pregnant for at least six months after treatment ends. Men should not try to become fathers for at least 3 months after treatment ends. Do not breastfeed during treatment and for at least 7 days after your last dose of this medicine.  Inform your physician if you have any kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease, blood/bleeding problems, or infection and about all the other prescribed, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, or herbal medications you take. This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. 

Side Effects

The common side effects of Irinotecan combination therapy are Alopecia (Hairfall), decreased body weight, abdominal pain, constipation, Diarrhea, reduced white blood cells, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, anemia, dizziness, lack of energy, cough, difficulty in breathing, fever, infections, bleeding, and pain. Other serious side effects include increased liver enzymes, low platelet counts, blood clots, hypersensitivity reactions, and decreased bone marrow activity. There may be side effects during the drug infusion, such as itching in the skin, redness at the site of administration, and shortness of breath. Inform your physician if you face any of the symptoms

Word Of Advice

Irinotecan should be taken cautiously in patients with kidney disease or undergoing dialysis. Diarrhea is the first sign of Irinotecan. It may be serious if diarrhea starts more than 24 hours after administration of this medication. It should be treated immediately and kept under close supervision. If left untreated, it could lead to dehydration and serious chemical imbalances, which can be life-threatening. 

Try to avoid laxatives and stool softeners while taking this medicine. Drink large amounts of water and rehydration fluids immediately. Take antidiarrheal treatment like loperamide. Notify your doctor if you experience any serious side effects. Contact your doctor for more information. Do not stop the medicine until your doctor advises. Do not double-dose the medicine to make up for a forgotten dose.

Frequently Asked Question


  1. Accord Healthcare Limited, Electronic Medicines Compendium (EMC), [Revised on June 2022] [Accessed on 1st June 2023],
  2. Pharmacia & Upjohn Co, US Food & Drug Administration, [Revised on Dec 2014] [Accessed on 1st June 2023],
  3. I.D. Penman, C.W. Lees, Alimentary Tract and Pancreatic Disease, Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine, 22nd Edition, 2014, 837-920.
  4. Edward Chu, Cancer Chemotherapy, Lange’s Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 14th Edition, 2018, 948-976.


The drug information on this page is not a substitute for medical advice. It is meant for educational purposes only. For further details, consult your doctor about your medical condition to know if you can receive this treatment.