About Ziv-Aflibercept (Zaltrap®)
Ziv-afilbercept is a type of anti-angiogenesis agent. It works by blocking the action of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which may prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. In essence, it kills tumors by cutting off their blood supply.
How to Take Ziv-afilbercept
Ziv-afilbercept is given by intravenous (IV, into a vein) infusion, over an hour, every two weeks. The dose you receive is based on your body size and will be determined by your oncology team.
Possible Side Effects of Ziv-afilbercept
Ziv-afilbercept has the potential to cause several serious side effects. There are some things you can do to manage the more common side effects of ziv-afilbercept. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of this medication and of irinotecan, which is often given with this medication. Diarrhea is a potentially dangerous side effect because it can lead to serious dehydration. Diarrhea can be defined as an increase in the number of bowel movements you have in a day. Notify your healthcare team if you develop diarrhea so they can help you manage this side effect.
Your oncology team can recommend medications to relieve diarrhea. Also, try eating low-fiber, bland foods, such as white rice and boiled or baked chicken. Avoid raw fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, cereals and seeds. Soluble fiber is found in some foods and absorbs fluid, which can help relieve diarrhea. Foods high in soluble fiber include: applesauce, bananas (ripe), canned fruit, orange sections, boiled potatoes, white rice, products made with white flour, oatmeal, cream of rice, cream of wheat, and farina. Drink 8-10 glasses on non-alcoholic, un-caffeinated fluid a day to prevent dehydration.
High Blood Pressure
This medication can cause high blood pressure (hypertension). Patients should have their blood pressure checked at least every 2 weeks during therapy. Any hypertension should be treated appropriately. If hypertension cannot be controlled, the medication may be stopped. Signs of hypertension to report to your team include: blurry vision, nosebleed, headache and fatigue.
Low White Blood Cell Count (Leukopenia or Neutropenia)
White blood cells (WBC) are important for fighting infection. While receiving treatment, your WBC count can drop, putting you at a higher risk of getting an infection. You should let your doctor or nurse know right away if you have a fever (temperature greater than 100.4), sore throat or cold, shortness of breath, cough, burning with urination, or a sore that doesn't heal.
Tips to preventing infection:
- Washing hands, both yours and your visitors, is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.
- Avoid large crowds and people who are sick (i.e.: those who have a cold, fever or cough or live with someone with these symptoms).
- When working in your yard, wear protective clothing including long pants and gloves.
- Do not handle pet waste.
- Keep all cuts or scratches clean.
- Shower or bath daily and perform frequent mouth care.
- Do not cut cuticles or ingrown nails. You may wear nail polish, but not fake nails.
- Ask your doctor or nurse before scheduling dental appointments or procedures.
- Ask your doctor or nurse before you, or someone you live with, has any vaccinations.
Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)
Platelets help your blood clot, so when the count is low you are at a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any excess bruising or bleeding, including nose bleeds, bleeding gums or blood in your urine or stool. If the platelet count becomes too low, you may receive a transfusion of platelets.
- Do not use a razor (an electric razor is fine).
- Avoid contact sports and activities that can result in injury or bleeding.
- Do not take aspirin (salicylic acid), non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as Motrin®, Aleve®, Advil®, etc. as these can all increase the risk of bleeding. Unless your healthcare team tells you otherwise, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Do not floss or use toothpicks and use a soft-bristle toothbrush to brush your teeth.
Fatigue is very common during cancer treatment and is an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion that is not usually relieved by rest. While on cancer treatment, and for a period after, you may need to adjust your schedule to manage fatigue. Plan times to rest during the day and conserve energy for more important activities. Exercise can help combat fatigue; a simple daily walk with a friend can help. Talk to your healthcare team for helpful tips on dealing with this side effect.
Mouth Ulcers (Sores)
Certain cancer treatments can cause sores or soreness in your mouth and/or throat. Notify your doctor or nurse if your mouth, tongue, inside of your cheek or throat becomes white, ulcerated or painful. Performing regular mouth care can help prevent or manage mouth sores. If mouth sores become painful, your doctor or nurse can recommend a pain reliever.
- Brush with a soft-bristle toothbrush or cotton swab twice a day.
- Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. A baking soda and/or salt warm water mouth rinse (2 level teaspoons of baking soda or 1 level teaspoon salt in an eight ounce glass of warm water) is recommended 4 times daily.
- If your mouth becomes dry, eat moist foods, drink plenty of fluids (6-8 glasses), and suck on sugarless hard candy.
- Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco, drinking alcoholic beverages and citrus juices.
Patients may experience minor bleeding, such as a nosebleed. Serious bleeding has also occurred in patients treated with this medication, including coughing up blood, bleeding into the stomach, blood in stool, vomiting blood, bleeding in the brain (stroke), nosebleeds and blood in the urine. People who have had serious bleeding should not take this medication. These events are uncommon, though if they occur, ziv-afilbercept should be discontinued. While a nosebleed may not seem like much of a concern, you should notify your healthcare team right away if you develop bleeding of any sort.
GI Bleed & Tear
This medication can cause bleeding in the bowel or a tear in the intestinal wall (called perforation). Signs of these problems include: blood in the stool or black/tar like stools, vomiting blood, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, fever, severe pain in the abdomen or new abdominal swelling. If you experience any of these, contact your healthcare provider immediately or go to the emergency room.
This medication can lead to slower or incomplete wound healing, such as a surgical wound not healing or staying closed. Therefore, it is recommended that the medication be discontinued four weeks prior to any surgery. Treatment with ziv-afilbercept should not resume for at least 4 weeks after surgery. If you have a surgical wound that has not healed or begins to have signs of infection (redness, swelling, warmth), report this to your healthcare team.
Kidney damage can occur while receiving ziv-afilbercept. Your healthcare team will monitor this by periodically checking the amount of protein in your urine. If the protein levels become elevated, you may require further urine tests to evaluate your kidney function. If your kidneys become damaged, you may need to stop receiving this medication.
Blood Clots, Stroke and Heart Attack
Ziv-afilbercept can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack. If you experience symptoms of these problems, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately or go to an emergency room. Symptoms can include: swelling, redness or pain in an extremity, chest pain or pressure, pain in your arm, back, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, trouble talking, confusion or mental status changes.
Additional Rare, But Serious, Side Effects
A possible, but rare, side effect is the development of a fistula, which is an abnormal passage between two body parts (for instance, a hole between the colon and vagina).
Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome (PRES) has been reported with this medication. PRES is a neurological disorder, which can present with headache, seizure, lethargy, confusion, blindness and other visual and neurologic disturbances. Report any of these neurological symptoms to your healthcare team immediately.
Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment and for at least 3 months after treatment. Even if your menstrual cycle stops or you believe you are not producing sperm, you could still be fertile and conceive. You should consult with your healthcare team before breastfeeding while receiving this medication.