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Decitabine is used for the treatment of several types of myelodysplastic syndromes (disorders of the bone marrow that results in poorly formed or dysfunctional blood cells). It is also used for the treatment of newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (cancer of white blood cells characterized by production of immature white blood cells) in adult patients aged 65 years and above and who cannot receive other chemotherapy medications.

How it works

Decitabine is an anti-cancer drug which belongs to the class, hypomethylation agents. It works by activation of certain genes that helps to normalize production of white cells and kill the cancer cells (apoptosis).

Common side effects

Diarrhoea, Fever, Headache, Infection, Decreased white blood cell count, Nose bleed, Nausea, Reduced blood platelets, Sinus inflammation, Sore lip, Sore mouth, Vomiting


Expert advice

  • You should undergo frequent examinations of complete blood count before every dosing cycle to check development of neutropenia (abnormally low white blood cell count) or thrombocytopenia (abnormally low count of platelets in the blood).
  • You should regularly be monitor and treated accordingly for signs and symptoms of infections or any unusual bleeding as decitabine is known to suppress the activity of the immune system and affects blood clotting functions.
  • Take extreme care to avoid pregnancy while on decitabine therapy. Consult your doctor if you get to know that you are pregnant.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is decitabine a vesicant?
Decitabine is not a vesicant and is not known to cause severe local tissue damage upon extravasation (leaking of injected decitabine into the surrounding tissues from the site of administration) when injected.
Q. How effective is decitabine?
The effectiveness of decitabine depends upon several factors including the patient’s clinical condition, number of treatment cycles etc.  and may vary depending upon the individual response.
Q. Does decitabine cause hair loss?
Yes. Hair loss (alopecia) is among the known side effects of decitabine.
Q. How is decitabine administered?
Decitabine comes as a powder to be to be added to fluid and injected slowly over 3 hours into a vein (slow i.v infusion) by a doctor who is experienced in giving chemotherapy medications for cancer in a hospital or a clinic.

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