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What is nelarabine?

Nelarabine is an anticancer medicine. It is a treatment for patients with T-cell leukemia and lymphoma. Nelarabine is a liquid given into a vein (IV) during an infusion that lasts at least 1 hour.

Nelarabine can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving this drug. For 48 hours after this drug is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.”

Possible side effects of  nelarabine

Most common

  • Body aches, muscle cramps, or joint pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dry mouth and increased thirst
  • Fever, chills, cough, and sore throat
  • Headache, feeling sleepy, blurry eyesight
  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting
  • Sores or white patches on your lips, mouth, or throat
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet
  • Feeling tired and having trouble breathing
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you have any of these side effects, tell the doctor right away:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands, fingers, feet, or toes
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • Problems with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes
  • Seizures
  • Weakness and paralysis (unable to move some parts of the body)

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for nelarabine

  • Because nelarabine may cause birth defects, do not take this medicine if you are pregnant. Both men and women who are taking nelarabine should use effective birth control methods. Contact one of your caregivers at St. Jude if you are sexually active or think you may be pregnant.
  • It is not known whether nelarabine passes into breast milk. This medicine might cause serious harm to a nursing infant. Women who are taking nelarabine should not breast-feed a baby.
  • This medicine may make you drowsy. Avoid driving, using machines, or doing anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert.
  • This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. Clean your hands often.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.
  • This medicine can cause nausea or vomiting, sometimes even after you receive medicine to prevent these effects. Ask your doctor or nurse about other ways to control any nausea or vomiting that might happen.
  • This medicine may interfere with vaccines. Talk with the doctor before getting any vaccines, including a flu shot. Receiving vaccines while on this drug may either increase the chance of bad infection or make the vaccine not work as well.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).