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Written By: Karen Selby, RN,
Last modified: December 22, 2020

Vinorelbine belongs to a family of chemotherapy drugs known as vinca alkaloids, which were initially created from extracts of the periwinkle plant. The antitumor effects of this drug were discovered in 1959.

Vinorelbine is classified as an antineoplastic agent. It binds to microtubular proteins in cells. Microtubules are needed for cell reproduction, so damage to the microtubules by vinorelbine prevents cancer cells from reproducing and leads to their self-destruction.

Vinorelbine Information

  • Other Names: Navelbine, vinorelbine tartrate
  • Manufactured by: Pierre Fabre
  • FDA-approved: Yes (to treat non-small cell lung cancer)
  • Used or Tested in: Breast cancer, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, mesothelioma, non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer, testicular cancer

Vinorelbine is typically administered in cycles of six weekly intravenous (IV) injections, though this varies based on the patient’s health factors and whether vinorelbine is combined with another chemotherapy drug.

Vinorelbine in Mesothelioma Treatment

Vinorelbine regimens are not as effective at extending survival as the standard pemetrexed and cisplatin treatment for mesothelioma. However, because vinorelbine has shown some effectiveness and has relatively low toxicity, doctors have continued to explore its value as a palliative or second-line therapy.

  • Palliative Therapy: Vinorelbine can relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for mesothelioma patients who cannot tolerate other cancer therapies.
  • Second-Line Therapy: Doctors may administer a regimen including vinorelbine to treat cancer reoccurrence after a patient has already received standard chemotherapy.

A 2017 review of second-line chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma suggests even though international guidelines include vinorelbine as a suggested drug, the research evidence supporting its use is inconclusive.

In 2014, the Wales Cancer Trials Unit began a phase II clinical trial to further study the effectiveness of vinorelbine as a second-line treatment. The researchers also aim to determine whether the BRCA1 gene is required for vinorelbine to cause cancer-cell death.

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Side Effects of Vinorelbine

Common side effects include:

  • Low red blood cell counts
  • Low white blood cell counts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores

Rare side effects include:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities
  • Bruising and bleeding problems
  • Blood in urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood pressure changes

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