What is PVD (panobinostat, bortezomib and dexamethasone)?

PVD is a combination treatment used to treat myeloma.

PVD is named after the initials of the drugs used:

It is best to read this information with our general information about targeted therapy drugs, steroids and the type of cancer you have.

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

How PVD is given

You are given PVD in the chemotherapy day unit or sometimes during a stay in hospital. A chemotherapy nurse gives it to you. 

During treatment, you usually see a cancer doctor, a cancer nurse or specialist nurse, and a specialist pharmacist. This is who we mean when we mention doctor, nurse or pharmacist in this information.

Before or on the day of treatment, a nurse or person trained to take blood (phlebotomist) takes a blood sample from you. This is to check that your blood cells are at a safe level to have treatment. 

You will see a doctor or nurse before you have treatment. They will ask you how you have been feeling. If your blood results are okay, the pharmacist will prepare your treatment. Your nurse will tell you when your treatment is likely to be ready. 

You take panobinostat as capsules which you can take at home. You usually take dexamethasone as tablets at home. But you may have it into a vein as an infusion in hospital. You usually have bortezomib in hospital, as an injection under the skin (subcutaneously).

Taking panobinostat

You should only take panobinostat on the days you have been told to. You take the capsules once on those days. Try to take them at the same time each day. You can take panobinostat with or without food. There are some things to remember when taking it:

  • Take the capsules with a glass of water. 
  • Do not chew, crush or open the capsules before you take them. This may increase side effects. 
  • Avoid eating grapefruit, star fruit or pomegranate and drinking grapefruit or pomegranate juice during your treatment. These may increase side effects.

Always take panobinostat exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This is important to make sure it works as well as possible for you. Your doctor will talk to you about how long to take panobinostat for.

If you forget to take panobinostat, you can still take it up to 12 hours after the time you usually take it. After this, do not take the missed dose – take your usual dose at the usual time the next day. You should never take a double dose.

There are some important things to remember about storing your capsules:

  • Keep them in the original packaging. 
  • Keep them at room temperature, away from heat and direct sunlight.
  • Keep them in a safe place, out of the reach of children.

If your doctor decides to stop the treatment, return any remaining capsules to the pharmacist. Do not flush them down the toilet or throw them away.

Taking bortezomib

Avoid drinking green tea while having bortezomib. It may make bortezomib less effective.

Your course of treatment

You usually have a course of several cycles of treatment over a few months. Your nurse or doctor will talk to you about how the treatment will be given. They may give you a copy of a treatment plan to take home with you.

A cycle of PVD usually lasts 21 days (3 weeks). In weeks 1 and 2 you have:

  • bortezomib 2 times a week 
  • panobinostat 3 times a week
  • dexamethasone 4 times a week.

Week 3 of the cycle is a rest period. During this time, you do not have any of the treatment drugs. 

After 8 cycles, how often you have the drugs changes. You will have:

  • bortezomib once a week
  • panobinostat 3 times a week 
  • dexamethasone 2 times a week.

About side effects

We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some less common side effects. You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them.

You may also have some side effects that we have not listed here. Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have.

Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects. It is important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This means they will be more likely to work for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. After your treatment is over, most side effects start to improve.

Serious and life-threatening side effects

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

Contact the hospital

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

More information

We cannot list every side effect for this treatment. There are some rare side effects that are not listed. You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information.

Common side effects

Risk of infection

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

Your doctor may give you antibiotics and other drugs to try to stop you getting an infection. These are called prophylactic medicines.

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. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour contact number you have been given if:

  • your temperature goes over 37.5°C (99.5°F)
  • you suddenly feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
  • you have symptoms of an infection
  • your temperature goes below 36°C (96.8°F).

Symptoms of an infection include:

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

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

The number of white blood cells 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.

Bruising and bleeding

This treatment can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot.

If the number of platelets is low, you may bruise or bleed easily. You may have:

  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums
  • heavy periods
  • blood in your urine (pee) or stools (poo)
  • tiny red or purple spots on your skin that may look like a rash
  • a bright red area on the white part of your eye.

Tell your doctor if you have any unexplained bruising or bleeding. You may need a drip to give you extra platelets. This is called a platelet transfusion.

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 have symptoms such as:

  • pale skin
  • lack of energy
  • feeling breathless
  • feeling dizzy and light-headed.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms.

If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra red blood cells. This is called a blood transfusion.

Diarrhoea

This treatment may cause severe diarrhoea. Diarrhoea means passing more stools (poo) than is usual for you, or having watery or loose stools. If you have a stoma, it will be more active than usual.

Your hospital team may give you anti-diarrhoea drugs to take at home.

If you have diarrhoea or a mild increase in stoma activity:

  • follow any advice from your cancer team about taking anti-diarrhoea drugs
  • drink at least 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluids each day
  • avoid alcohol, caffeine, milk products, high-fat foods and high-fibre foods.

Contact the hospital straight away if:

  • you have diarrhoea at night
  • you have diarrhoea more than 4 times in a day
  • you have a moderate or severe increase in stoma activity
  • the anti-diarrhoea drugs do not work within 24 hours.

You may need to go to hospital to have fluids through a drip.

Tummy pain

You may get pain or discomfort in your abdomen (tummy area) or have indigestion. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to help improve these symptoms. Tell them if the pain does not improve or gets worse. 

Tell your doctor straight away if you:

  • have sudden or severe pain in your tummy 
  • have signs of bleeding from the rectum (back passage)
  • have black stools (poo)
  • vomit up blood (or have vomit that looks like coffee grounds).

Feeling sick

Your doctor will give you anti-sickness drugs to help prevent or control sickness during your treatment. Take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist tells you. It is easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.

If you feel sick, take small sips of fluids often and eat small amounts regularly. It is important to drink enough fluids. If you continue to feel sick, or are sick (vomit) more than once in 24 hours, contact the hospital as soon as possible. They will give you advice. Your doctor or nurse may change the anti-sickness drug to one that works better for you.

Loss of appetite

This treatment can affect your appetite. Do not worry if you do not eat much for a day or two. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, tell your nurse or dietitian. They will give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements.

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 has finished. Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest. Gentle exercise, like short walks, can give you more energy.

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

Headaches

This treatment may cause headaches. If you have headaches, tell your doctor. They may give you painkillers to help.

Numb or tingling hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy)

This treatment affects the nerves, which can cause numb, tingling or painful hands or feet. You may find it hard to fasten buttons or do other fiddly tasks.

Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms. They sometimes need to lower the dose of the drug. The symptoms usually improve slowly after treatment finishes, but for some people they may never go away. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about this.

Feeling dizzy

This treatment may cause dizziness. Tell your doctor or nurse if this is a problem. It is important you do not drive or operate machinery if you feel dizzy.

Skin changes

PVD may affect your skin. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect. If your skin feels dry, try using an unperfumed moisturising cream every day. PVD can cause a rash, which may be itchy. 

If you are out in the sun, use a suncream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect your skin.

Always tell your doctor or nurse about any skin changes. They can give you advice and may give you creams or medicines to help. Any changes to your skin are usually temporary and improve after treatment finishes.

Rarely, a more serious skin condition may develop. You may have a skin rash which then blisters, and your skin may peel. You may also feel unwell with flu-like symptoms such as a high temperature and joint pain. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or hospital straight away.

Eye problems

Sometimes bortezomib can make your eyes feel sore and itchy and look red (conjunctivitis). Your doctor will prescribe eye drops to help prevent this. It is important to use these as your doctor tells you.

Bortezomib may also make your eyes more sensitive to light and cause blurry vision. If you have pain or notice any change in your vision, always tell your doctor or nurse. It is important not to drive or operate machinery if you notice these effects.

Effects on the lungs

This treatment can cause changes to the lungs. Tell your doctor if you develop:

  • a cough
  • wheezing
  • a fever (high temperature)
  • breathlessness.

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

Fluid build-up

Some people get swelling around their ankles or feet, because of fluid build-up. This often gets better by itself. Or your doctor may prescribe drugs to make you pass more urine (diuretics) to help remove some of the fluid.

Changes to your mood

Some people become low in mood or feel anxious while having bortezomib. Talk to your doctor or nurse if this happens.

Problems sleeping

You may find it difficult to sleep while having bortezomib. Tell your doctor or nurse if this happens.

Changes to your blood pressure

Bortezomib may cause low or high blood pressure. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have ever had any problems with your blood pressure.

If you are taking medicine to lower your blood pressure, your doctor or nurse may need to adjust the dose. If you feel dizzy, light-headed or faint when you get up from a lying or sitting position, it can help to move more slowly. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help.

Your nurse will check your blood pressure regularly during treatment. Let them know if you feel dizzy or have any headaches.

Changes in the way your liver or kidneys work

This treatment can affect how your kidneys and liver work. This is usually mild and goes back to normal after treatment. You will have blood tests to check how well your kidneys and liver are working.

Changes to your taste

You may get a bitter or metal taste in your mouth. Sucking sugar-free sweets may help with this. Some foods may taste different or have no taste. Try different foods to find out what tastes best to you. Taste changes usually get better after treatment finishes. Your nurse can give you more advice.

Less common side effects

Effects on the heart

This treatment can affect how the heart works. You may have tests to see how well your heart is working. These may be done before, during and after treatment.

If the treatment is causing heart problems, your doctor may change the type of treatment you are having.

Contact your doctor straight away on the 24-hour number the hospital has given you if you have any of these symptoms during or after treatment:
  • pain or tightness in your chest
  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • changes to your heartbeat.

Other conditions can cause these symptoms, but it is important to get them checked by a doctor. If you cannot get through to your doctor, call the NHS urgent advice number on 111.

Effects on the brain

This treatment can increase the chance of seizures, particularly in people who have had them before. Tell your doctor if you have epilepsy or have had seizures in the past.

This treatment can sometimes cause bleeding or swelling of the brain. This can cause symptoms including:

  • severe headaches
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • sudden loss of vision
  • a seizure.

If you have these symptoms, you or someone with you should contact the hospital on the number you have been given straight away.

Raised blood sugar levels

This treatment may raise your blood sugar levels. You will have regular blood tests to check this. Symptoms of raised blood sugar include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • needing to pass urine (pee) more often
  • feeling tired.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms during treatment or after it finishes.

If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may be higher than usual. Your doctor will talk to you about how to manage this.

Effects on the thyroid

Sometimes this treatment can affect how the [thyroid] works. This is usually mild. You may have blood tests if needed to check how well your thyroid is working.

Other information

Blood clot risk

Cancer and some cancer treatments can increase the risk of a blood clot. Symptoms of a blood clot include:

  • throbbing pain, redness or swelling in a leg or arm
  • suddenly feeling breathless or coughing
  • sharp chest pain, which may be worse when you cough or take a deep breath.

If you have any of these symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour contact number you have been given. If you cannot get through to your doctor, call the NHS urgent advice number on 111.

A blood clot is serious, but it can be treated with drugs that thin the blood (anticoagulants). Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.

You can help reduce the risk of developing a blood clot by:

  • staying active during treatment
  • drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.

You may be given anticoagulants to help prevent a clot.

Other medicines

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

  • medicines you have been prescribed
  • medicines you buy in a shop or chemist
  • vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.

Tell other doctors, pharmacists or dentists who prescribe or give you medicines that you are having this cancer treatment.

You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information about your treatment.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations can reduce your risk of getting certain infections. Your doctor or nurse may talk to you about having vaccinations.

Doctors usually recommend that people with cancer have a flu vaccination and a coronavirus vaccination. These are both inactivated vaccinations that can help reduce the risk of infection. People with weak immune systems can have these, as they are not live vaccinations.

If your immune system is weak, you need to avoid live vaccinations. This is because they can make you unwell. Live vaccines, such as shingles, contain a very weak version of the illness they are vaccinating you against. Your cancer doctor or GP can tell you more about live and inactivated vaccinations.

Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to get pregnant while having this treatment and for 3 months afterwards. If you are using hormonal contraception, you should also use a barrier method.

You should not make someone pregnant during the treatment and for 6 months afterwards. 

The drugs may harm a developing baby. It is important to use contraception during your treatment and for a while after treatment finishes. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can tell you more about this.

Breastfeeding

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

Your doctor or nurse 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.

Sex

If you have sex during a course of this treatment, you should use barrier protection such as a condom or dental dam. This will protect your partner if any of the drug is in your semen or vaginal fluid.

Medical and dental treatment

If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses you are having cancer treatment. Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.

If you think you need dental treatment, talk to your cancer doctor or nurse. Always tell your dentist you are having cancer 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.