ABCP

ABCP is a chemotherapy drug used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. 

ABCP

ABCP is used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic cancer). It may sometimes be used to treat other cancers. It is best to read this information about ABCP with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.

ABCP comes from the initials of the drugs used: 

Your doctor will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.

More information about this treatment

This information is correct at time of publishing. But sometimes the types of cancer this treatment is used for, or treatment side effects, may change between revision dates.

You can talk to your cancer team if you want more detailed information about this treatment. Or visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website, which has patient information leaflets (PIL) for individual drugs.

How ABCP is given

A chemotherapy nurse will give you ABCP in the chemotherapy day unit.

During a course of treatment, you usually see a:

  • cancer doctor
  • chemotherapy nurse or a specialist nurse
  • specialist pharmacist.

This is who we mean when we mention doctor, nurse or pharmacist in this information.

Before or on the day of each treatment, a nurse or person trained to take blood (phlebotomist) will take a blood sample from you. This is to check that it is safe for you to have treatment.

You will speak to a doctor, nurse or pharmacist before you have treatment. They will talk to you about your blood results and ask how you have been feeling. If your blood results are okay, the pharmacy team will prepare your treatment.

Your nurse usually gives you anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs before the treatment. You may have the drugs through:

  • a cannula – a short, thin tube the nurse puts into a vein in your arm or hand 
  • a central line – a fine tube that goes under the skin of your chest and into a vein close by 
  • a PICC line) – a fine tube that is put into a vein in your arm and goes up into a vein in your chest 
  • an implantable port (portacath) – a disc that is put under the skin on your chest or arm and goes into a vein in your chest.

Your course of chemotherapy

You usually have a course of several cycles of treatment over a few months. Each cycle of ABCP takes 21 days (3 weeks). 

On day 1, the nurse will give you: 

  • atezolizumab as an infusion over 60 minutes or as an injection under the skin 
  • bevacizumab as an infusion over 90 minutes 
  • carboplatin as an infusion over 60 minutes 
  • paclitaxel as an infusion over 3 hours. 

You then have a rest period with no treatment for 20 days. This completes your first cycle of ABCP. At the end of the rest period, you start your second cycle of ABCP. 

Some of the drugs can cause a reaction in some people. The nurse will give you drugs to help prevent or reduce this. A reaction is most likely with the first or second time you have the drugs, so they are given more slowly. If you do not have a reaction after the first or second time, your nurse may give you some of the drugs over a shorter time. 

Your nurse or doctor will discuss your treatment plan with you and tell you the number of cycles you are likely to have. 

About side effects

We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some that are less common. This treatment can make the immune system too active. This can cause side effects that may be serious if not treated quickly.

You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them. And you may have some side effects, including rarer ones, that we have not listed here.

Other cancer treatments may cause different side effects. If you are also having other cancer treatment, you may have other side effects.

Do not try to treat side effects yourself. Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have. They can give you:

  • drugs to help control some side effects 
  • advice about managing side effects. 

It is important to take any drugs exactly as explained. This means they will be more likely to work for you.

Serious and life-threatening side effects

Some cancer treatments can cause serious side effects. Sometimes, these may be life-threatening. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can explain the risk of these side effects to you.

Delayed side effects

This treatment may also cause delayed side effects. These can start weeks, months, or sometimes more than a year after you finish treatment.

If you have symptoms or side effects that start during treatment or after treatment ends, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. Side effects can become serious if they are not treated.

Contact the hospital

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will give you 24-hour contact numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call at any time of the day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.

Your patient alert card

They will also give you a card with information about your treatment. It is important to keep the card with you during treatment and after treatment ends. You should show it to any doctor or healthcare professional caring for you.

Side effects while treatment is being given

Some people may have side effects while they are being given this treatment or shortly after they have it.

Allergic reaction

Some people have an allergic reaction while having this treatment. Before treatment, you will have medicines to help prevent or reduce any reaction. 

Signs of a reaction can include: 

  • feeling hot or flushed
  • shivering
  • itching
  • a skin rash
  • feeling dizzy or sick
  • a headache
  • feeling breathless or wheezy
  • swelling of your face or mouth
  • pain in your back, tummy or chest. 

Your nurse will check you for signs of a reaction during your treatment. If you feel unwell or have any of these signs, tell them straight away. If you do have a reaction, they can treat it quickly. 

Sometimes a reaction happens a few hours after treatment. If you develop any of these signs or feel unwell after you get home, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number.

The drug leaks outside the vein

The drug may leak outside the vein. If this happens it can damage the tissue around the vein. This is called extravasation. Extravasation is not common but if it happens it is important that it is dealt with quickly. Tell your nurse straight away if you have any stinging, pain, redness or swelling around the vein. 

Pain along the vein

This treatment can cause pain:

  • at the place where the drip (infusion) is given 
  • along the vein. 

If you feel pain, tell your nurse straight away. They can check the site. They may give the drug more slowly or flush it through with more fluid to reduce pain.

Muscle or joint pain

You may get pain in your muscles or joints while the treatment is being given. If this happens, tell the doctor or nurse so they can give you painkillers. Tell them if the pain does not get better.

Immune system side effects

This treatment can make the immune system too active. This can cause the following side effects. Some of them are rare. But it is important to know about them.

Do not try to treat these side effects yourself. If you have these side effects during treatment or after it ends, always contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number.

Effects on the lungs

This treatment can cause inflammation of the lungs. This is called pneumonitis. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you notice any of these changes during treatment or after it ends:

  • breathlessness
  • a cough that does not go away
  • wheezing
  • a fever, with a temperature over 37.5°C.

You should also tell them if any existing breathing problems get worse. You may have tests to check your lungs. You may need steroids or other treatments.

Skin changes

This treatment may cause inflammation in the skin. This is usually mild, but can if it is not treated it can become serious. You may need creams, steroids or other medicines to treat skin problems. If you notice skin changes during treatment, or after treatment ends, contact the hospital on the 24-hour number as soon as possible. Skin changes can include: 

  • a rash or bumps on the skin
  • dry or itchy skin
  • patches of white or paler skin.

To protect your skin from the sun, use suncream with of at least SPF 30. SPF stands for sun protection factor. Cover up with clothing and a hat. 

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms:

  • a rash that is spreading
  • blistering or peeling skin
  • flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature and joint pain. 

These symptoms can be a sign of a serious skin reaction that needs to be treated immediately in hospital.

Diarrhoea or tummy pain

You may have diarrhoea or tummy (abdominal) pain. This treatment can also cause inflammation of the bowel (colitis) which can be very serious. 

Diarrhoea means passing more stools (poo) than is normal for you, or having watery or loose stools. If you have a stoma, it may be more active than usual.

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of the following symptoms during treatment, or after treatment ends:

  • You have diarrhoea 4 or more times in a day. 
  • You have a moderate increase in stoma activity. 
  • You have uncomfortable tummy cramps. 
  • You have diarrhoea at night. 
  • Your temperature is over 37.5°C.
  • There is blood or mucus in your stool.

You may need to go into hospital to have fluids through a drip or treatments such as steroids.

Hormone changes

This treatment may affect your hormones. Hormones control many different processes in the body. You will have regular blood tests to check some of your hormone levels. Contact the hospital on the 24-hour number if you have any of these side effects during treatment or after it ends:

  • increased sweating
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • dizziness or fainting
  • feeling more hungry or thirsty than usual
  • loss of sex drive
  • passing urine (peeing) more often than usual
  • headaches that do not go away
  • feeling more tired than usual (fatigue)
  • mood changes.

You may need drugs to control your hormone levels.

Muscle and joint pain

This treatment can cause sore or weak muscles. Your joints may also be stiff, sore or swollen (arthritis). If you already have problems with joint pain, this may become worse. Contact the hospital on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms during treatment or after it ends:

  • new or worsening aches or pains
  • new or worsening stiffness in a joint
  • swollen joints.

You may need steroids or other treatments, such as painkillers.

Effects on the liver

This treatment can cause liver inflammation and may affect how your liver works. This is called hepatitis. You will have regular blood tests to check this. If the blood tests show liver changes, you may have steroids.

Sometimes liver changes can be serious. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms during treatment or after it finishes:

  • yellow skin or eyes
  • feeling very sleepy
  • dark urine (pee)
  • unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • pain in the right side of your tummy (abdomen)
  • loss of appetite.

Effects on the kidneys

This treatment can cause kidney inflammation and may affect how the kidneys work. This is called nephritis. This is not common, but if it is not treated it can become serious. You will have regular blood tests to check how your kidneys are working. If tests show kidney changes, you may have steroids or other treatments.

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number during treatment, or after it ends, if you either:

  • have blood in your urine (pee) 
  • are passing less urine or peeing less often than usual.

Effects on the heart

This treatment can affect how the heart works. This is not common, but it can be serious. You may have tests to check how well your heart is working. These may be done before, during and after treatment.

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms during or after treatment:

  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • changes to your heartbeat
  • swollen feet and ankles.

Other conditions can cause these symptoms, but it is important to get them checked by a doctor. 

Always call 999 if you have:

  • chest pain, pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest
  • difficulty breathing.

If your symptoms are caused by this treatment, you may need steroids. You may be monitored in hospital for a time.

Other side effects

Risk of infection

This treatment can reduce the number of white blood cells in your blood. These cells fight infection. If your white blood cell count is low, you may be more likely to get an infection. A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia.

An infection can be very serious when the number of white blood cells is low. It is important to get any infection treated as soon as possible. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number:

  • a temperature above 37.5°C  
  • a temperature below 36°C 
  • you feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
  • you have symptoms of an infection.

Symptoms of an infection include:

  • feeling shivery and shaking
  • a sore throat
  • a cough 
  • breathlessness
  • diarrhoea
  • needing to pass urine (pee) often, or discomfort when you pass urine.

It is important to follow any specific advice your cancer treatment team gives you.

Your white blood cell count will usually return to normal before your next treatment. You will have a blood test before having more treatment. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may delay your treatment for a short time, until your cell count increases.

Bleeding

This treatment can sometimes cause bleeding problems, such as:

  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums
  • blood spots or rashes on the skin.

Tell your doctor if you are taking any medicines that may affect bleeding.

Contact your doctor straight away if you have any unusual bleeding. This includes:

  • vomiting or coughing up blood
  • unexpected vaginal bleeding
  • blood in your poo (stools).

Anaemia (low number of red blood cells)

This treatment can reduce the number of red blood cells in your blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. If the number of red blood cells is low, this is called anaemia. You may feel:

  • very low in energy
  • breathless 
  • dizzy and light-headed. 

If you have these symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. You may need treatment for anaemia. If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra red blood cells. This is called a blood transfusion.

Feeling sick

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will prescribe anti-sickness drugs to help prevent or control sickness. Take the drugs exactly as they tell you to, even if you do not feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.

If you feel sick, take small sips of fluid often and eat small amounts regularly. It is important to drink enough fluids. If you continue to feel sick, or if you are sick (vomit) 1 to 2 times in 24 hours, contact the hospital on the 24-hour number as soon as possible. They will give you advice. They may change your anti-sickness treatment. Let them know if you still feel sick.

Feeling tired

Feeling tired is a common side effect of this treatment. It is often worse towards the end of treatment and for some weeks after it ends. Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest. Gentle exercise, like short walks, can help you feel less tired. 

If you feel sleepy, do not drive or use machinery.

High blood pressure

This treatment can cause high blood pressure. This is called hypertension. Your doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure regularly. If you have headaches, nosebleeds or feel dizzy, let your doctor know. They can prescribe tablets to control high blood pressure. 

If you have high blood pressure before you start treatment, your doctor will monitor you closely during treatment.

Hair loss

You usually lose all the hair from your head. You may also lose your eyelashes and eyebrows, as well as other body hair. Hair loss usually starts after your first or second treatment.

Scalp cooling is a way of lowering the temperature of your scalp to help reduce hair loss. Your nurse can tell you whether this is an option for you.

If you want to cover up hair loss, there are different ways to do this. Your nurse can give you information about coping with hair loss. Remember to protect your skin from the sun. Use suncream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on your scalp. Or cover up with a hat or scarf.

Hair loss is usually temporary. Your hair will usually grow back after treatment ends. Very rarely, hair may not grow back. Or it may grow back thinner than before. If you are worried about this, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Loss of appetite

This treatment can affect your appetite. Don’t worry if you do not eat much for 1 or 2 days. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, or if you are losing weight, tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They can give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements. Or they may suggest changes to your diet or eating habits to help.

Sore mouth and throat

This treatment may cause a sore mouth and throat. You may also get mouth ulcers. This can make you more likely to get a mouth or throat infection. Use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth or dentures in the morning, at night and after meals.

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number, if:

  • a sore mouth or throat affects how much you can drink or eat 
  • your mouth, tongue, throat or lips have any blisters, ulcers or white patches. 

They can give you advice, and mouthwash or medicines to help with the pain or to treat any infection. Follow their advice and make sure you:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • avoid food or drinks that irritate your mouth and throat.

Hand-foot (palmar-plantar) syndrome

This treatment can affect the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. This is called palmar-plantar or hand-foot syndrome. 

If you have white skin these areas may become red. If you have black or brown skin, these areas might get darker. 

The skin on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet may:

  • be sore
  • be painful, tingle, or swell
  • peel, crack or blister. 

If you have any of these symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. They can give you advice. This is especially important if you have any broken skin or if walking is difficult. They can prescribe creams and painkillers to help.

You can care for your hands and feet by: 

  • keeping your hands and feet cool by washing in cool water
  • gently moisturising your hands and feet regularly
  • wearing gloves to protect your hands and nails when working in the house or garden
  • wearing loose cotton socks and avoiding tight-fitting shoes and gloves.

Nail changes

This treatment can affect your nails. They may grow more slowly or break more easily. You might notice ridges or white or dark lines across your nails. These changes usually disappear as the nails grow out after treatment. Sometimes nails can become loose or fall out.

If the skin around your nails becomes sore and swollen, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. These might be signs of an infection.

Tips to look after your nails:

  • Keep your nails clipped short and clean. 
  • Avoid using very hot water when washing your hands or bathing.
  • Moisturise your nails and cuticles regularly.
  • Avoid false nails, gels or other acrylics during treatment – it is okay to use water-based nail polish. 
  • Wear gloves to protect your nails when working in the house or garden.
  • If your toenails are affected, wear well-fitting shoes, or shoes with open toes to cushion them.

Tell your doctor or nurse about any changes to your nails. They can give you advice or arrange for you to see a podiatrist. They are a foot care specialist.

Numb or tingling hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy)

This treatment may affect the nerves in your fingers and toes. This can cause numbness, tingling or pain in your hands or feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy. You might find it hard to do fiddly tasks such as fastening buttons or tying shoelaces.

If you have these symptoms, always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They sometimes need to change the drug or the dose of the drug. The symptoms usually improve slowly after treatment ends. But for some people they continue and are a long-term side effect of treatment.

Eye problems

Your eyes may become watery and feel sore. Your doctor can give you eye drops to help with this. If your eyes get red and inflamed (conjunctivitis), tell your doctor. You may need antibiotic eye drops.

Always tell your doctor or nurse if you have pain in your eyes or notice any change in your vision.

Headaches

This treatment may cause headaches. If you have headaches, tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They can give you advice about painkillers that may help. Tell them if the headache does not get better, or gets worse.

Changes to your taste

Some foods may taste different or have no taste. Try different foods to find out what tastes best to you. You may also get a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can give you advice. It might help to try:

  • sucking sugar-free sour or boiled sweets
  • eating cold foods
  • eating sharp-tasting fresh fruit.

Taste changes usually get better after treatment ends. We have more information about coping with changes to taste.

Hearing changes

This treatment may cause hearing changes, including hearing loss. You may have ringing in the ears. This is called tinnitus. You may also become unable to hear some high-pitched sounds. Hearing changes may get better after this treatment ends. But this does not always happen. If you notice any changes in your hearing, tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Effects on the brain

Rarely, this treatment causes a brain condition that can be serious. You can make a full recovery from this. But it must be diagnosed and treated quickly.

This condition can cause:

  • a headache that does not get better
  • drowsiness or confusion
  • changes in eyesight
  • fits (seizures).

If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to either:

  • contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number 
  • go to the hospital straight away. 

You should not drive yourself to hospital.

Other information

Blood clot risk

Cancer and some cancer treatments can increase the risk of a blood clot. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms during or after treatment:

  • throbbing pain or swelling in a leg or arm
  • reddening of the skin in the area – if you have black or brown skin, this can be harder to notice, but the skin might become darker
  • suddenly feeling breathless or coughing.

Always call 999 if you have:

  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing.

A blood clot is serious, but it can be treated with drugs called anticoagulants. These thin the blood. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can give you more information about preventing and treating blood clots.

Other medicines

Some medicines can affect how this treatment works or be harmful while you are having it. Always tell your cancer doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any drugs you are taking or planning to take, such as: 

Vaccinations

Doctors usually recommend that people with cancer have vaccinations for flu and for coronavirus (covid). These help reduce your risk of serious illness from these infections. Most people can have these vaccines, including people with weak immune systems.

If your immune system is weak, you should not have live vaccinations. Live vaccines can make you unwell because they contain a very weak version of the illness they will protect you against. Live vaccines include Zostavax®, which is a shingles vaccine, and the yellow fever vaccine.

It is important to ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for advice about having vaccinations. They can explain what vaccines are right for you and when it is best to have them.

Contraception

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will advise you not to get pregnant or make someone pregnant while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. The drugs may harm a developing baby. It is important to use contraception to prevent pregnancy. Follow their advice about:

  • what types of contraception to use 
  • how long after treatment you should continue to use contraception. 

Sex

It is possible that small amounts of chemotherapy may be passed on through vaginal fluids or semen. If you have sex in the first few days after treatment, your cancer team will usually advise using condoms or a dental dam to protect your partner.

Breastfeeding

You are advised not to breastfeed while having this treatment, or for some time after treatment ends. This is because the drugs could be passed to the baby through breast milk. 

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can give you more information.

Fertility

Some cancer drugs can affect whether you can get pregnant or make someone pregnant. If you are worried about this, it is important to talk with your doctor before you start treatment.

Medical and dental treatment

If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare professional that you are having cancer treatment. Show them your patient alert card. Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor or cancer team so they can ask for advice.

If you have appointments with a dentist or optician, always tell them you are having cancer treatment. Talk to your cancer team before you have any dental treatment.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert health professionals and people living with cancer.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 March 2024
|
Next review: 01 March 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.