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What Is Etoposide Phosphate Used For?

Adults who have small cell lung cancer or testicular cancer may receive a chemotherapy drug called etoposide phosphate. This prescription drug works by causing DNA strands to break, which prevents cancer cells from growing and dividing. Etoposide phosphate may also be used for off-label purposes, such as treating cervical cancer, leukemia, or other types of cancer.

An Overview of Uses for Etoposide Phosphate

Etoposide phosphate (Etopophos®) is a prescription chemotherapy medication. It is approved to treat small cell lung cancer. It is also approved to treat testicular cancer that has not adequately responded to other forms of treatment. Etoposide phosphate is not designed to be used alone; it is used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs.
Etoposide phosphate is the phosphate salt form of the medication etoposide. The body rapidly converts etoposide phosphate into etoposide. Regular etoposide is available as a capsule and an injection (Toposar® [etoposide injection]). Etoposide injection and etoposide phosphate work in the same way, and are used to treat the same types of cancer. Etoposide phosphate is often reserved for use when high doses of etoposide are needed.

Using Etoposide Phosphate for the Treatment of Small Cell Lung Cancer

Lung cancer begins in the cells that line the lungs. There are two main types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer, and is also more aggressive.
Although the cells of small cell lung cancer are small, they multiply and spread quickly throughout the body. In fact, small cell lung cancer has usually spread beyond the lungs before it is detected. Therefore, surgery is often not an option to remove the cancer cells. Instead, many people with small cell lung cancer are treated with a combination of chemotherapy, such as etoposide phosphate, and radiation treatment (see Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment for more information).
The biggest risk factor for developing small cell lung cancer is cigarette smoking. This disease rarely occurs in people who have not smoked. However, other things may increase a person's risk for developing this type of cancer, such as:
  • Smoking pipes or cigars
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Being exposed to environmental pollutants, such as asbestos or radon.
Symptoms of small cell lung cancer may vary from person to person, depending on the location of the cancer and how much it has progressed. Some of the more common symptoms include:
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • A cough that does not go away or becomes worse
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty swallowing.
Additional symptoms can develop as the cancer spreads. For example, bone pain may occur if the disease has spread to the bone, and headaches and vision problems can develop once the cancer spreads to the brain.
Etoposide phosphate is approved for use in combination with other chemotherapy medicines as a first-line treatment for people with small cell lung cancer. This means it can be the first medicine used to treat the condition. Etoposide phosphate is usually used as part of a treatment regimen that includes platinum-based chemotherapy medicines, such as cisplatin or carboplatin.
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Etoposide Phosphate Drug Information

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