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DepoCyt® (cytarabine liposome injection) should be administered only under the supervision of a qualified physician experienced in the use of cancer chemotherapeutic agents. Appropriate management of complications is possible only when adequate diagnostic and treatment facilities are readily available. Chemical arachnoiditis, a syndrome manifested primarily by nausea, vomiting, headache and fever, has been a common adverse event in all studies. If left untreated, chemical arachnoiditis may be fatal. The incidence and severity of chemical arachnoiditis can be reduced by coadministration of dexamethasone. Patients receiving DepoCyt should be treated concurrently with dexamethasone to mitigate the symptoms of chemical arachnoiditis (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Infectious meningitis may be associated with intrathecal drug administration. Hydrocephalus has also been reported, possibly precipitated by arachnoiditis.

During the clinical studies, 2 deaths related to DepoCyt were reported. One patient died after developing encephalopathy 36 hours after an intraventricular dose of DepoCyt, 125 mg. This patient was receiving concurrent whole-brain irradiation and had previously received systemic chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and fluorouracil, as well as intraventricular methotrexate. The other patient received DepoCyt, 50 mg by the intraventricular route and developed focal seizures progressing to status epilepticus. This patient died approximately 8 weeks after the last dose of study medication. In the controlled lymphoma study, the patient incidence of seizures was higher in the DepoCyt group (4/17, 23.5%) than in the cytarabine group (1/16, 6.3%). The death of 1 additional patient was considered “possibly” related to DepoCyt. He was a 63-year-old with extensive lymphoma involving the nasopharynx, brain, and meninges with multiple neurologic deficits who died of apparent disease progression 4 days after his second dose of DepoCyt.

After intrathecal administration of cytarabine the most frequently reported reactions are nausea, vomiting and fever. Intrathecal administration of cytarabine may cause myelopathy and other neurologic toxicity and can rarely lead to a permanent neurologic deficit. Administration of intrathecal cytarabine in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents or with cranial/spinal irradiation may increase this risk of neurotoxicity.

Blockage to CSF flow may result in increased free cytarabine concentrations in the CSF and an increased risk of neurotoxicity. Therefore, as with any intrathecal cytotoxic therapy, consideration should be given to the need for assessment of CSF flow before treatment is started.

Following intrathecal administration of DepoCyt, central nervous system toxicity, including persistent extreme somnolence, hemiplegia, visual disturbances including blindness which may be total and permanent, deafness and cranial nerve palsies have been reported. Symptoms and signs of peripheral neuropathy, such as pain, numbness, paresthesia, weakness, and impaired bowel and bladder control have also been observed. In some cases, a combination of neurological signs and symptoms have been reported as Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Pregnancy Category D

There are no studies assessing the reproductive toxicity of DepoCyt. Cytarabine, the active component of DepoCyt, can cause fetal harm if a pregnant woman is exposed to the drug systemically. Three anecdotal cases of major limb malformations have been reported in infants after their mothers received intravenous cytarabine, alone or in combination with other agents, during the first trimester. The concern for fetal harm following intrathecal DepoCyt administration is low because systemic exposure to cytarabine is negligible. Cytarabine was teratogenic in mice (cleft palate, phocomelia, deformed appendages, skeletal abnormalities) when doses ≥ 2 mg/kg/day were administered IP during the period of organogenesis (about 0.2 times the recommended human dose on mg/m² basis), and in rats (deformed appendages) when 20 mg/kg was administered as a single IP dose on day 12 of gestation (about 4 times the recommended human dose on mg/m² basis). Single IP doses of 50 mg/kg in rats (about 10 times the recommended human dose on mg/m² basis) on day 14 of gestation also cause reduced prenatal and postnatal brain size and permanent impairment of learning ability. Cytarabine was embryotoxic in mice when administered during the period of organogenesis. Embryotoxicity was characterized by decreased fetal weight at 0.5 mg/kg/day (about 0.05 times the recommended human dose on mg/m²basis), and increased early and late resorptions and decreased live litter sizes at 8 mg/kg/day (approximately equal to the recommended human dose on mg/m basis). There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. If this drug is used during pregnancy or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential harm to the fetus. Despite the low apparent risk for fetal harm, women of childbearing potential should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant.


General Precautions

DepoCyt® (cytarabine liposome injection) has the potential of producing serious toxicity (see BOXED WARNING). All patients receiving DepoCyt should be treated concurrently with dexamethasone to mitigate the symptoms of chemical arachnoiditis (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Toxic effects may be related to a single dose or to cumulative administration. Because toxic effects can occur at any time during therapy (although they are most likely to occur within 5 days of drug administration), patients receiving intrathecal therapy with DepoCyt should be monitored continuously for the development of neurotoxicity. If patients develop neurotoxicity, subsequent doses of DepoCyt should be reduced, and DepoCyt should be discontinued if toxicity persists.

Some patients with neoplastic meningitis receiving treatment with DepoCyt may require concurrent radiation or systemic therapy with other chemotherapeutic agents; this may increase the rate of adverse events.

Anaphylactic reactions following intravenous administration of free cytarabine have been reported.

Although significant systemic exposure to free cytarabine following intrathecal treatment is not expected, some effect on bone marrow function cannot be excluded. Systemic toxicity due to intravenous administration of cytarabine consists primarily of bone marrow suppression with leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and anemia. Accordingly, careful monitoring of the hematopoietic system is advised.

Transient elevations in CSF protein and white blood cells have been observed in patients following DepoCyt administration and have also been noted after intrathecal treatment with methotrexate or cytarabine.

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

No carcinogenicity, mutagenicity or impairment of fertility studies have been conducted with DepoCyt. The active ingredient of DepoCyt, cytarabine, was mutagenic in in vitro tests and was clastogenic in vitro (chromosome aberrations and SCE in human leukocytes) and in vivo (chromosome aberrations and SCE assay in rodent bone marrow, mouse micronucleus assay). Cytarabine caused the transformation of hamster embryo cells and rat H43 cells in vitro . Cytarabine was clastogenic to meiotic cells; a dose-dependent increase in sperm-head abnormalities and chromosomal aberrations occurred in mice given IP cytarabine. Impairment of Fertility: No studies assessing the impact of cytarabine on fertility are available in the literature. Because the systemic exposure to free cytarabine following intrathecal treatment with DepoCyt was negligible, the risk of impaired fertility after intrathecal DepoCyt is likely to be low.


Pregnancy Category D (see WARNINGS).

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether cytarabine is excreted in human milk following intrathecal DepoCyt administration. The systemic exposure to free cytarabine following intrathecal treatment with DepoCyt was negligible. Despite the low apparent risk, because many drugs are excreted in human milk and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants, the use of DepoCyt is not recommended in nursing women.

Pediatric Use

The safety and efficacy of DepoCyt in pediatric patients has not been established.

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 2/16/2016


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