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Arsenic Trioxide



Arsenic trioxide is used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia (a type of cancer in which there is a rise in the number of abnormal white blood cells, accompanied with bleeding or bruising) in patients who have failed to respond to previous treatment with other drugs including retinoids and chemotherapy.

How it works

Arsenic trioxide belongs to a category of drugs called as anti-neoplastics. It acts by causing changes in the DNA of abnormal cells, thus causing cell death and preventing the spread of cancer.

Common side effects

Accumulation of fluid in the cavity surrounding the lungs, Pulmonary alveolar hemorrhage, Liver enzyme increased, Abdominal pain, Joint pain, Chest pain, Chills, Confusion, Diarrhoea, Differentiation syndrome, Dizziness, Shortness of breath, Edema, Fatigue, Fever, Headache, Increased glucose level in blood, Increased sodium level in blood, Decreased potassium level in blood, Decreased oxygen level in blood, Prolonged qtc interval, Increased creatinine level in blood, Muscle pain, Nausea, Rash, Itching, Skin redness, Vomiting, Weakness, Weight gain


Expert advice

  • Inform your doctor before taking the medicine if you have kidney or liver disease or abnormal heart rhythms (evident from ECG).
  • Ensure that appropriate blood tests are conducted for measurement of blood calcium, potassium and creatinine, before and during treatment with arsenic trioxide.
  • Ensure that ECG recordings are conducted before and during treatment with arsenic trioxide.
  • Make sure you use effective contraception while taking arsenic trioxide to prevent pregnancy.
  • Consult your doctor before taking the drug if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breast-feeding.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)