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What is palbociclib?

Palbociclib is a targeted (biological) therapy. This group of drugs block the growth and spread of cancer. They target and interfere with processes in the cells that cause cancer to grow. Palbociclib is the non-branded name. Its branded name is Ibrance. When used to treat breast cancer, palbociclib is taken alongside hormone (endocrine) therapy.

Who might be offered palbociclib?

Palbociclib may be offered to people who have locally advanced or secondary breast cancer that is both:

oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) (breast cancer that has receptors within the cell that bind to the hormone oestrogen and stimulate the cancer to grow)

HER2 negative (breast cancer that has a normal level of the HER2 protein)

If you haven’t had any treatment for locally advanced or secondary breast cancer, palbociclib may be given in combination with an aromatase inhibitor such as letrozole.

Some people who have previously had hormone therapy for secondary breast cancer may be offered palbociclib in combination with fulvestrant.

If you haven’t been through the menopause you will also have treatment to prevent the ovaries from producing oestrogen, either temporarily or permanently. This is known as ovarian suppression.

How does palbociclib work?

Certain proteins in the body cause cells to grow and divide. In ER positive (ER+), HER2 negative breast cancer, these proteins can become overactive and stimulate breast cancer cells to grow. Palbociclib works by blocking these proteins, helping to stop the cancer cells growing and dividing.When combined with hormone therapies that block the effects of oestrogen on cancer cells, palbociclib helps to delay the growth of ER+, HER2 negative breast cancer.

Common side effects of palbociclib

Like any drug, palbociclib can cause side effects. Everyone reacts differently to drugs and some people have more side effects than others. These side effects can usually be controlled and those described here will not affect everyone.

Because it’s given alongside hormone therapy, you may also experience side effects from that drug as well.If you’re concerned about any side effects, regardless of whether they’re listed here, talk to your chemotherapy nurse or cancer specialist (oncologist).

Side Effects:

  • Important things to remember about the side effects of palbociclib:
  • Most people will not experience all of the palbociclib side effects listed.
  • Palbociclib side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset, duration, and severity.
  • Palbociclib side effects will improve after therapy is complete.
  • Palbociclib side effects may be quite manageable. There are many options to minimize or prevent the side effects of palbociclib.
  • Low blood counts. Your white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease. This can put you at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding.
  • Nadir: 15 days
  • Fatigue
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • These are less common side effects for patients receiving palbociclib:
  • Nausea
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss/thinning
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness/tingling of fingers/toes)
  • Weakness
  • Nosebleeds