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Gallium Nitrate

(gall-ee-um nye-trate)

Trade/other name(s): Ganite

Why would this drug be used?

Gallium nitrate is used to lower high blood calcium levels in people who have cancer that has spread to the bones. It is most often used after other treatments have been found not to work.

How does this drug work?

Multiple myeloma and some cancers that spread to the bones can cause the breakdown of bone materials, which can lead to the release of large amounts of calcium into the blood. This condition is called hypercalcemia, and it can be dangerous.

Gallium nitrate helps keep calcium levels in the body from getting too high. It is thought to do this by blocking the breakdown (absorption) of bone, which slows the release of calcium into the blood.

Before taking this medicine

Tell your doctor…

  • If you are allergic to any medicines, dyes, additives, or foods.
  • If you have ever had kidney problems. This drug may affect kidney function (see "Precautions" section below).
  • If you have any other medical conditions such as liver disease (including hepatitis), heart disease, congestive heart failure, lung disease, diabetes, gout, or infections. You may need closer monitoring of these conditions while being treated.
  • If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or if there is any chance of pregnancy. It is not known if this drug might cause problems if either the male or female is taking it at the time of conception or during pregnancy. Check with your doctor about what kinds of birth control can be used with this medicine. This drug should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit is thought to justify the potential risk to the fetus.
  • If you are breast-feeding. While no studies have been done, this drug may pass into breast milk and affect the baby. Talk with your doctor about the possible risks of breast-feeding while taking gallium nitrate.
  • About any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking, including vitamins and herbs. In fact, keeping a written list of each of these medicines (including the doses of each and when you take them) with you in case of emergency may help prevent complications if you get sick.

Interactions with other drugs

Using gallium nitrate along with other drugs that can affect the kidneys could result in serious kidney problems. These drugs include amphotericin B, aminoglycoside antibiotics (streptomycin, tobramycin, amikacin, neomycin, gentamicin, etc., that are usually given in the vein), and platinum-based chemotherapy drugs (cisplatin, oxaliplatin), among others.

If used with cyclophosphamide and prednisone, gallium nitrate may raise the risk of shortness of breath, mouth soreness, and weakness.

Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about all of your medicines, herbs, and supplements, and whether alcohol can cause problems with this medicine.

Interactions with foods

No serious interactions with foods are known at this time. Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about whether some foods may be a problem.

Tell all the doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists you visit that you are taking this drug.

How is this drug taken or given?

Gallium nitrate is given as an injection into a vein (intravenously, or IV) over a period of 24 hours. It is usually given for 5 days in a row. Your dose depends largely on your body size and how high your blood calcium level is. Treatment may be stopped early if the calcium level returns to normal.

It is important that you receive plenty of fluids while getting this drug to reduce the chance of kidney damage. Your doctor or nurse will help you with this.

Precautions

This drug can cause kidney damage. Generally, it is not used in people who already have serious kidney problems, nor is it used along with other drugs that can cause kidney damage. Your doctor will do blood tests to track your kidney function closely while you're being treated and may need to adjust or stop treatment if there are any abnormal results. Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you notice blood in the urine, low urine output, increased thirst, nausea, or vomiting.

In rare cases, taking this drug could lead to low blood calcium levels (hypocalcemia). Possible symptoms of this condition include changes in sensations in the face, hands, or feet, muscle spasms or cramps, muscle or joint pains, confusion, or seizures. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

Your doctor will test your blood frequently throughout your treatment, looking for possible effects of the drug on blood chemistry levels (especially calcium levels). Based on the test results, your doctor may need to change your dose of this drug. Keep all your appointments for lab tests and doctor visits.

Possible side effects

You will probably not have most of the following side effects, but if you have any talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help you understand the side effects and cope with them.

Common

  • none

Less common

  • abnormal blood tests which suggest that the drug is affecting the kidneys (Your doctor will talk with you about the significance of this, if any)*
  • lowering of blood pressure
  • mild nausea
  • vomiting
  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • fever
  • skin rash
  • swelling of the hands or feet

Rare

  • muscle pain, cramps, or spasms*
  • abnormal sensations in the hands or feet*
  • low red blood cell counts
  • problems with vision or hearing

*See "Precautions" section for more detailed information.

There are some other side effects not listed above that can also occur in some patients. Tell your doctor or nurse if you develop these or any other problems.

FDA approval

Yes – first approved in 1991.

Disclaimer: This information does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for talking with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical needs.


Last Medical Review: 02/11/2010
Last Revised: 02/11/2010