Brigatinib

Brigatinib is a targeted cancer drug treatment for non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is also known as Alunbrig.

It is a treatment for a type of lung cancer called non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic NSCLC).

You can only have brigatinib if you have a change (mutation) in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene. Your doctor sends tissue samples to check for this gene change.

How does brigatinib work?

Brigatinib is a type of cancer growth blockers called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). It blocks chemical signals (enzymes) from tyrosine kinase proteins. Tyrosine kinases help to send growth signals in cells, so blocking them stops the cell growing and dividing.

How do you have brigatinib?

Brigatinib comes as tablets. You swallow them whole with a glass of water. You can take them with or without food.

You must take tablets according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.

How often do you have brigatinib?

You take brigatinib once a day. You continue taking brigatinib for as long as it is working, and the side effects aren’t too bad.

Tests

You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

You might have blood pressure and heart rate taken before starting treatment and then every few weeks.

You might have a heart trace test (ECG) before starting treatment and at different times during treatment.

What are the side effects of brigatinib?

How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you're also having other drugs or radiotherapy.

When to contact your team

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:

  • you have severe side effects 
  • your side effects aren’t getting any better
  • your side effects are getting worse

Early treatment can help manage side effects better. 

Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have signs of infection, including a temperature above 37.5C or below 36C.

We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.

Common side effects

These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

Increased risk of getting an infection

Increased risk of getting an infection is due to a drop in white blood cells. Symptoms include a change in temperature, aching muscles, headaches, feeling cold and shivery and generally unwell. You might have other symptoms depending on where the infection is.

Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your advice line urgently if you think you have an infection. 

Breathlessness and cough

You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.

You might also have a cough. Less commonly you might have lung changes such as inflammation or scarring of the lung tissue causing your lungs to get stiff. Symptoms might include feeling breathless, cough, tiredness and weakness, loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.

Let your healthcare team know if you are finding it difficult to breath.

High blood sugar levels 

High blood sugar levels can cause headaches, feeling thirsty and blurred vision. You have regular tests to check your blood sugar levels. You may need to check your levels more often if you are diabetic.

Changes to levels of substances in the body

You might have changes in levels of minerals, electrolytes and insulin in your blood. Brigatinib can lower the amount of phosphate, sodium, magnesium  and potassium. It can also increase the amount of calcium and insulin in your blood. 

You will have regular blood tests to check for these levels. Less commonly you might have high fat (cholesterol) levels in the blood.

Loss of appetite 

You might lose your appetite for various reasons when you are having cancer treatment. Sickness, taste changes or tiredness can put you off food and drinks.

Headaches

Tell your doctor or nurse if you keep getting headaches. They can give you painkillers to help.

Dizziness

This drug might make you feel dizzy. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you have this.

Numbness and tingling in fingers and toes

Numbness or tingling in fingers or toes is often temporary and can improve after you finish treatment. Tell your doctor if you're finding it difficult to walk or complete fiddly tasks such as doing up buttons. 

Eyesight problems 

This might include blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, changes to how you see colours, or sensitivity to light.

High blood pressure 

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have headaches, nosebleeds, blurred or double vision or shortness of breath. Your nurse will check your blood pressure regularly.

Loose or watery poo (diarrhoea)

Contact your advice line if you have diarrhoea, such as if you've had 4 or more loose watery poos (stools) in 24 hours. Or if you can't drink to replace the lost fluid. Or if it carries on for more than 3 days.

Your doctor may give you anti diarrhoea medicine to take home with you after treatment. Eat less fibre, avoid raw fruits, fruit juice, cereals and vegetables, and drink plenty to replace the fluid lost.

Difficulty opening your bowels (constipation) 

Constipation is easier to sort out if you treat it early. Drink plenty of fluids and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can. Try to take gentle exercise, such as walking. Tell your doctor or nurse if you are constipated for more than 3 days. They can prescribe a laxative.

Feeling or being sick

Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques can all help.

It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.

Tummy (abdominal) pain

Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help. 

Sore mouth

Mouth sores and ulcers can be painful. It helps to keep your mouth and teeth clean, drink plenty of fluids, avoid acidic foods such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits, and chew gum to keep the mouth moist. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have ulcers.

Less commonly you might have a dry mouth.

Skin problems

Skin problems include a skin rash, dry skin and itching. This usually goes back to normal when your treatment finishes. Your nurse will tell you what products you can use on your skin to help.

Less commonly, you might have sensitivity to sunlight.

Joint or muscle pain and stiffness

You might feel some pain from your muscles and joints. Your joints and muscles might also get stiff, but this is less common.

Speak to your doctor or nurse about what painkillers you can take to help with this.

Kidney problems 

To help prevent kidney damage, it is important to drink plenty of water. You might also have fluids into your vein before, during and after treatment. You have blood tests before your treatments to check how well your kidneys are working.

Fluid build up in different parts of the body

A build up of fluid may cause swelling in your arms, hands, ankles, legs, face and other parts of the body. Contact your doctor if this happens to you.

Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)

You might feel very tired and as though you lack energy.

Various things can help you to reduce tiredness and cope with it, for example exercise. Some research has shown that taking gentle exercise can give you more energy. It is important to balance exercise with resting.

Liver changes

You might have liver changes that are usually mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. They usually go back to normal when treatment finishes. You have regular blood tests to check for any changes in the way your liver is working.

Changes to how fast your blood clots

Blood tests might show that it’s taking longer than normal for your blood to clot. Your healthcare team will monitor this.

Occasional side effects

These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • bruising, bleeding gums or nosebleeds
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • memory changes
  • taste changes
  • heart changes such as faster or slower heart rate, or feeling a pounding heartbeat
  • indigestion symptoms include heartburn, bloating and burping
  • passing wind (flatulence)
  • pain in different parts of the body such as arms, legs and chest
  • weight loss

Rare side effects

Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (less than 1%). Symptoms might include severe tummy pain, feeling or being sick, a high temperature or you may have loose poo. Let your healthcare team know if you have any of these.

Coping with side effects

We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.

What else do I need to know?

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice

You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this drug because it may increase the side effects.

Lactose

This drug contains lactose (milk sugar). If you have an intolerance to lactose, contact your doctor before taking this medicine

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with this drug. It is important to use non-hormonal contraception (such as condoms) during treatment. Speak to your team about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Women

Women should not become pregnant for 4 months after finishing treatment.

Men

Men should not father a child for 3 months after finishing treatment.

Loss of fertility

It is not known whether this treatment affects fertility in people. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.

Breastfeeding

It is not known whether this drug comes through into the breast milk. Doctors usually advise that you don’t breastfeed during this treatment.

Treatment for other conditions 

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and one of the shingles vaccines called Zostavax.

You can have:

  • other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • the flu vaccine (as an injection)
  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to have it in relation to your cancer treatment

Members of your household who are aged 5 years or over are also able to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to help lower your risk of getting COVID-19 while having cancer treatment and until your immune system Open a glossary item recovers from treatment.

Contact with others who have had immunisations - You can be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections. Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as the oral typhoid vaccine.

If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as this is a live vaccine. This is for 2 weeks following their vaccination.

Babies have the live rotavirus vaccine. The virus is in the baby’s poo for about 2 weeks and could make you ill if your immunity is low. Get someone else to change their nappies during this time if you can. If this isn't possible, wash your hands well after changing their nappy.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Last reviewed: 
07 Mar 2022
Next review due: 
07 Mar 2025
  • Electronic Medicines Compendium
    Accessed May 2021

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