Classification: Monoclonal antibody
About: Dostarlimab-gxly (Jemperli®)
The immune system works by creating antibodies, which are proteins that attach to antigens found on the surface of a cell. The antibody “calls” the immune system to attack the cell it is attached to, resulting in the immune system killing the cell. Monoclonal antibodies are created in a lab to attach to the antigens found on specific types of cancer cells. These antibodies can work in different ways, including stimulating the immune system to kill the cell, blocking cell growth, or other functions necessary for cell growth.
Dostarlimab-gxly is a type of monoclonal antibody therapy, which works to stimulate the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Dostarlimab-gxly works as a form of immunotherapy by binding to either the programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) or PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) found on T-cells. By doing so, the immune system is stimulated to find and kill cancer cells. Your tumor will need to be tested for and have a certain genetic mutation called Deficient mismatch repair (dMMR).
How to take Dostarlimab-gxly
Dostarlimab-gxly is given intravenously (IV, into a vein). Your dose and how often you receive the medication will be determined by your provider.
Make sure your care team is aware of all medications (including prescription and over-the-counter), supplements, and vitamins you are taking. Steroids should be avoided while on immunotherapy, unless directed by your care team.
Tell your care team about all your medical conditions, including those that are autoimmune in nature (Crohn’s disease, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) as these can get worse with immunotherapy. You should also notify your provider if you have had or plan on having an allogenic stem cell transplant or any other surgery or condition that would lead to prolonged or lifelong use of immunosuppression.
Possible Side Effects
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of dostarlimab-gxly. Talk to your care team about these recommendations. They can help you decided what will work best for you. These are some of the most common or important side effects:
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.
Nausea and/or Vomiting
Talk to your oncology care team 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 saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms.
Call your oncology care team if you are unable to keep fluids down for more than 12 hours or if you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time.
Low White Blood Cells/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°F or 38°C), 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 oncology care team before scheduling dental appointments or procedures.
- Ask your oncology care team before you, or someone you live with, has any vaccinations.
Your oncology care 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. Any increase in your normal bowel patterns can be defined as diarrhea and should be reported to your healthcare team.
This medication can affect the normal levels of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc.) in your body. Your levels will be monitored using blood tests. If your levels become too low or too high, your care team may prescribe specific electrolytes to be given by IV or taken by mouth. Do not take any supplements without first consulting with your care team.
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 oncology care team 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.
There are several things you can do to prevent or relieve constipation. Include fiber in your diet (fruits and vegetables), drink 8-10 glasses of non-alcoholic fluids a day, and keep active. A stool softener once or twice a day may prevent constipation. If you do not have a bowel movement for 2-3 days, you should contact your healthcare team for suggestions to relieve the constipation.
Less common but important side effects can include:
- Immune Reactions: This medication stimulates your immune system. Your immune system can attack normal organs and tissues in your body, leading to serious or life-threatening complications. It is important to notify your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea/Intestinal problems (Colitis, inflammation of the bowel): Belly pain, diarrhea, cramping, mucus or blood in the stool, dark or tar-like stools, fever. Diarrhea means different things to different people. Any increase in your normal bowel patterns can be defined as diarrhea and should be reported to your healthcare team.
- Skin reactions: Report rash, with or without itching (pruritis), sores in your mouth, blistering or peeling skin, as these can become severe and require treatment with corticosteroids.
- Lung problems (Pneumonitis, inflammation of the lung): New or worsening cough, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, or chest pain.
- Liver problems (Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver): Yellowing of the skin or eyes, your urine appears dark or brown, pain in your abdomen, bleeding or bruising more easily than normal, or severe nausea and vomiting. Notify your healthcare provider if you notice yellowing of the skin or eyes, your urine appears dark or brown, or you have pain in your abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.
- Hormone abnormalities: Immune reactions can affect the pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, and adrenal glands, resulting in inflammation of these glands, which can affect their production of certain hormones. Some hormone levels can be monitored with blood work. It is important that you report any changes in how you are feeling to your care team. Symptoms of these hormonal changes can include: headaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation, rapid heart rate, increased sweating, extreme fatigue, weakness, changes in your voice, changes in memory and concentration, increased hunger or thirst, increased urination, weight gain, hair loss, dizziness, feeling cold all the time, and changes in mood or behavior (including irritability, forgetfulness and decreased sex drive).
- Kidney problems (kidney inflammation or failure): Decreased urine output, blood in the urine, swelling in the ankles, loss of appetite.
- Infusion-Related Side Effects/Allergic Reactions: In some cases, patients can have an allergic reaction to this medication. Signs of a reaction can include: shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain, rash, flushing or itching or a decrease in blood pressure. If you notice any changes in how you feel during the infusion, let your nurse know immediately. The infusion will be slowed or stopped if this occurs. Depending on the severity of your reaction, you may still be able to receive the medication with a pre-medication to prevent a reaction, or if the medication is given at a slower rate.
- Allogenic Stem Cell Transplant Reactions: Patients who receive this medication before or after having an allogenic stem cell transplant can be at an increased risk of graft vs. host disease, veno-occlusive disease, and fever syndrome. Your providers will monitor you closely for these side effects.
- Solid Organ Transplant: This medication can cause rejection of a solid organ transplant. Contact your provider if you have any signs of rejection.
Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment and for at least 4 months after treatment. Even if your menstrual cycle stops, you could still be fertile and conceive. You should not breastfeed while receiving this medication or for 4 months after your last treatment.