Amifostine (Ethyol®)

Last Modified: August 21, 2011

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Pronounced: a-mi-FOS-teen
Classification: Chemoprotectant

About Amifostine

Amifostine is a type of drug called a chemoprotectant or cytoprotectant, which is used to prevent or lessen the damage to the kidneys caused by cisplatin (a chemotherapy) or damage to the salivary glands, resulting in dry mouth, caused by radiation therapy. Amifostine works by promoting the repair of damaged tissue and binding to harmful free radicals released by cells after exposure to cisplatin.

How to Take Amifostine

Amifostine is given by intravenous (into a vein) infusion, over a course of a few minutes. The treatment is given 15-30 minutes before radiation or chemotherapy starts. Patients are given the infusion while lying down and their blood pressure is monitored. Patients may be asked to increase their fluid intake for 24 hours before the infusion. The actual dose a patient receives is based on his/her height and weight.

Possible Side Effects of Amifostine

There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Amifostine. 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:

Nausea and/or Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting caused by amifostine may last for up to 24 hours. It is a good idea to have something light to eat before your treatment. The makers of amifostine recommend taking anti-nausea medicine 1-2 hours before the infusion. If you continue to have nausea or vomiting, notify your doctor or nurse so they can help you manage this side effect. 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. Read the Nausea & Vomiting Tip Sheet for more suggestions.

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure typically occurs 15 minutes after the start of the infusion and lasts 5-15 minutes. It may be associated with dizziness or feeling faint, which is why patients are asked to lie down during the infusion. This symptom generally resolves on its own, but some patients may need the infusion to be stopped and for intravenous fluids to be given.

Low Blood Calcium

Amifostine can cause the level of calcium in your blood to decrease. Symptoms of low blood calcium include muscle spasms and/or twitching, a numbness or tingling of fingers, toes or around the mouth. If this occurs, your healthcare team may ask you to take calcium supplements (like Tums) to correct this problem.


See OncoLink's section on fatigue for helpful tips on dealing with this side effect.

Other Side Effects

Sneezing, hiccups, flushing or redness of the skin.

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