Other cancer drugs and pregnancy

Other anti-cancer drugs are used to treat different cancers. Most of these cannot be given during pregnancy.

Hormonal therapy drugs

Hormonal therapy drugs are often used to treat breast cancer. They are not given during pregnancy as they have a high risk of causing birth defects. Your doctor will prescribe these after the baby is born.

Targeted therapies

These drugs are new so there is not a lot of information about their effects during pregnancy. Because of this they are not usually given to pregnant women.

Women with breast cancer who need trastuzumab can have it after the baby is born. During pregnancy, it can reduce the amount of fluid around the baby.

Rituximab is a targeted therapy drug used to treat lymphoma. Recent research looking at pregnant women who had rituximab to treat lymphoma did not show that it caused problems for the baby. Your specialist may still advise waiting to have it until after the baby is born.

Imatinib (Glivec®) is a drug that is used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia. It is usually avoided during pregnancy.

Targeted therapy drugs, such as: ipilimumab (Yervoy®), nivolumab (Opdivo®), pembrolizimab (Keytruda®), vemurafenib (Zelboraf®), dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) and trametininb (Mekinist®) are used to treat advanced melanoma. They are not given during pregnancy.

Immunotherapy drugs

Interferon alpha (IntronA®, Roferon-A®) is an immunotherapy drug that can be given during pregnancy. It can be used to treat advanced melanoma until after the birth. You can then have targeted therapy drugs.

Interferon may also be used during pregnancy to treat women with chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Supportive treatments

You will usually need drugs to help control side effects of treatment or any symptoms you may have. There are certain drugs your doctor will avoid. But there are others that can be given and that work well.

Sickness is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Doctors often prescribe drugs called metoclopramide or ondansetron. These can be given during pregnancy.

If you get an infection, you will be given antibiotics. Most antibiotics can be given safely but your doctor will avoid certain drugs, for example tetracyclines.

Steroids can also be given during pregnancy. They can be used to treat sickness, reduce swelling and control pain.

There are different painkillers you can take during pregnancy. You need to check with your doctor or midwife first. Let them know if you are in pain so they can prescribe you the right drug.

Always check before taking any medicines you buy over the counter. Ask your midwife, nurse, or doctor for advice.