What is Navelbine?
Navelbine—also known as vinorelbine—is a chemotherapy treatment that belongs to a class of drugs called vinca, or plant, alkaloids. Vinca alkaloids are semi-synthetic drugs, which means they are partially derived from plants. The FDA approved Navelbine in 1994 for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer; however, researchers have been testing it as a treatment for mesothelioma for decades.
Navelbine kills cancer cells with a process called microtubular inhibition. Microtubules are cellular structures that help pull cells apart when they’re dividing. After a normal cell divides a certain number of times, it goes through apoptosis, which is basically cell death or “cell suicide.” Apoptosis is part of a normal, healthy cell’s life cycle. Mesothelioma cells, however, skip apoptosis, and continue to divide, eventually forming a tumor. Navelbine inhibits the microtubules that help mesothelioma cells divide, forcing apoptosis, and slowing down tumor growth.
How Doctors Give It
Doctors give navelbine to patients through an IV drip over the course of 30 minutes. They administer it for several treatment cycles, the number and amount of which depends on the stage of each patient’s cancer, as well as their health, height and weight. Navelbine is also available as a pill that patients can take in the comfort of their own home; a convenient option for those who aren’t able—because of a disability or financial issue—to frequently visit the hospital.
Like most chemotherapy drugs navelbine is systemic, which means that it will most likely cause a few side effects. Systemic drugs are injected, or slowly dripped via IV. They circulate throughout the bloodstream, killing any cancer cell they encounter. Systemic drugs can’t, however, differentiate between healthy cells that replicate frequently, like hair or nail cells, and cancer cells. When healthy cells become “collateral damage” and are killed alongside cancer cells, side effects occur.
Patients taking navelbine may experience one or more of the following side effects:
- Hair loss
- Anemia (lowered red blood cell count)
- Weakened immune system (lowered white blood cell count)
- Weakened muscles
It’s important to note that side effects only last until the patient finishes chemotherapy. They’ll slowly disappear once healthy cells regenerate.
Is it Right for You?
If you’re considering having navelbine, or another chemotherapy drug, speak with an experienced doctor first. Navelbine is one of many treatment options available for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma; only a doctor with experience treating mesothelioma can determine which option works best for your diagnosis.