Patients receiving bleomycin must be observed carefully and frequently during and after therapy. It should be used with extreme caution in patients with significant impairment of renal function or compromised pulmonary function.
Pulmonary toxicities occur in 10% of treated patients. In approximately 1%, the nonspecific pneumonitis induced by bleomycin progresses to pulmonary fibrosis and death. Although this is age and dose related, the toxicity is unpredictable. Frequent roentgenograms are recommended (see ADVERSE REACTIONS: Pulmonary).
A severe idiosyncratic reaction (similar to anaphylaxis) consisting of hypotension, mental confusion, fever, chills, and wheezing has been reported in approximately 1% of lymphoma patients treated with bleomycin. Since these reactions usually occur after the first or second dose, careful monitoring is essential after these doses (see ADVERSE REACTIONS: Idiosyncratic Reactions).
Renal or hepatic toxicity, beginning as a deterioration in renal or liver function tests, have been reported. These toxicities may occur at any time after initiation of therapy.
Usage in Pregnancy
Bleomycin can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. It has been shown to be teratogenic in rats. Administration of intraperitoneal doses of 1.5 mg/kg/day to rats (about 1.6 times the recommended human dose on a unit/m2 basis) on days 6 to 15 of gestation caused skeletal malformations, shortened innominate artery and hydroureter. Bleomycin is abortifacient but not teratogenic in rabbits at intravenous doses of 1.2 mg/kg/day (about 2.4 times the recommended human dose on a unit/m2 basis) given on gestation days 6 to 18.
There have been no studies in pregnant women. If Bleomycin for Injection is used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant while receiving this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus. Women of childbearing potential should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant during therapy with Bleomycin for Injection.
Patients with creatinine clearance values of less than 50 mL/min should be treated with caution and their renal function should be carefully monitored during the administration of bleomycin. Lower doses of bleomycin may be required in these patients than those with normal renal function (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
The carcinogenic potential of bleomycin in humans is unknown. A study in F344-type male rats demonstrated an increased incidence of nodular hyperplasia after induced lung carcinogenesis by nitrosamines, followed by treatment with bleomycin. In another study where the drug was administered to rats by subcutaneous injection at 0.35 mg/kg weekly (3.82 units/m2 weekly or about 30% at the recommended human dose), necropsy findings included dose-related injection site fibrosarcomas as well as various renal tumors. Bleomycin has been shown to be mutagenic both in vitro and in vivo. The effects of bleomycin on fertility have not been studied.
It is not known whether the drug is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants, it is recommended that nursing be discontinued by women receiving bleomycin therapy.
Safety and effectiveness of Bleomycin for Injection in pediatric patients have not been established.
In clinical trials, pulmonary toxicity was more common in patients older than 70 years than in younger patients (see BOXED WARNING, WARNINGS, and ADVERSE REACTIONS: Pulmonary). Other reported clinical experience has not identified other differences in responses between elderly and younger patients, but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.
Bleomycin is known to be substantially excreted by the kidney, and the risk of toxic reactions to this drug may be greater in patients with impaired renal function. Because elderly patients are more likely to have decreased renal function, care should be taken in dose selection, and it may be useful to monitor renal function.