Temsirolimus (Torisel®)

OncoLink Team
Last Modified: January 13, 2016

Pronounced: TEM-sir-OH-li-mus

Classification: Kinase Inhibitor

About Temsirolimus

Temsirolimus is a kinase inhibitor that inhibits mTor kinase, an enzyme required for cell growth and survival. By blocking this enzyme, temsirolimus prevents cell division and may slow the growth of tumors. This medication may also slow the growth of blood vessels that feed the tumor.

How to Take Temsirolimus

Temsirolimus is given intravenously (through an IV into a vein), typically once a week over 30-60 minutes. You will be given an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, prior to the infusion to decrease the chance of a reaction to the medication. Symptoms of a reaction include: flushing, facial swelling, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Let your nurse know right away if you experience any problems during the infusion.

The blood levels of this medication can be affected by certain foods and medications, so they should be avoided during treatment and between doses. These include: warfarin, dexamethasone, carbamazepine, rifampin, phenytoin, St. John's wort, and phenobarbital. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all medications and supplements you take.

Possible Side Effects of Temsirolimus

There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of temsirolimus. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:

High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia)

This medication can cause elevated blood sugar levels in patients with and without diabetes. Your healthcare team will monitor your blood sugar. If you develop increased thirst, urination or hunger, blurry vision, headaches or your breath smells like fruit, notify your healthcare team. Diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely and report elevations to the healthcare team.

Infection Risk and Low White Blood Cell Count (Leukopenia or Neutropenia)

This medication can suppress your immune system, putting you at higher risk of getting an infection. 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 Red Blood Cell Count (Anemia)

Your red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in your body. When the red cell count is low, you may feel tired or weak. You should let your doctor or nurse know if you experience any shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or pain in your chest. If the count gets too low, you may receive a blood transfusion.

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.

Nausea and/or Vomiting

Talk to your doctor or nurse so they can prescribe medications to help you manage nausea and vomiting. In addition, dietary changes may help. Avoid things that may worsen the symptoms, such as heavy or greasy/fatty, spicy or acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, oranges). Try antacids, (e.g. milk of magnesia, calcium tablets such as Tums), saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms.

Call your doctor or nurse if you are unable to keep fluids down for more than 12 hours or if you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time.

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.

Live Vaccines

You, or anyone you live with, should avoid having live or live-attenuated vaccines (including: oral polio, measles, nasal flumist, rotovirus, yellow fever) while receiving this medication.

Increase in Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Patients receiving temsirolimus may develop increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. Your provider will monitor for this. Some people may require a lipid lowering medication to treat this increase.

High Blood Sugar

This medication can cause elevated blood sugar levels in patients with and without diabetes. Your healthcare team will monitor your blood sugar. If you develop increased thirst, urination or hunger, blurry vision, or headaches, notify your healthcare team. Diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely and report elevations to the healthcare team.

Wound Healing

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 used with caution before or after surgery. In addition, any surgical incision should be fully healed prior to starting or restarting the medication. 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.

GI Tear

This medication can cause a tear in the intestinal wall, also called a gastrointestinal perforation. Signs of this can include: new or worsening pain in the abdomen, new abdominal swelling, chills, fever, constipation, nausea or vomiting.  If you experience any of these, contact your healthcare provider immediately or go to the emergency room.

Kidney Problems

This medication can cause renal failure. If you notice that you are urinating less, or that you urine is dark in color, notify your healthcare provider.

Lung Changes

This medication may cause a lung problem called interstitial lung disease. Notify your Healthcare provider if you have new or worsening shortness of breath, cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing.

Other Side Effects

Some less common side effects that have been reported include: rash, weakness, and edema (swelling).  

Reproductive Concerns

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.

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