MMM

MMM is the name of a chemotherapy combination that includes:

  • mitoxantrone
  • mitomycin C
  • methotrexate

It is a treatment for breast cancer.

How does MMM work?

These chemotherapy drugs destroy quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

How do you have MMM?

You have MMM into your bloodstream (intravenously). 

You might have treatment through a long plastic tube that goes into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

  • central line
  • PICC line
  • portacath

If you don't have a central line

You might have treatment through a thin short tube (a cannula) that goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

How often do you have MMM?

You have MMM in cycles. Each cycle lasts 42 days. You might have up to 6 cycles.

You might have each cycle in the following way.

Day 1
  • You have mitomycin as an injection into your bloodstream (intravenously)
  • You have methotrexate as an injection into your bloodstream (intravenously)
  • You have mitoxantrone as a drip into your bloodstream over 15 minutes
Day 2 - 20
  • You have no treatment
Day 21
  • You have methotrexate as an injection into your bloodstream (intravenously)
  • You have mitoxantrone as a drip into your bloodstream over 15 minutes
Day 22 - 42
  • You have no treatment

You then start the next cycle of treatment. 

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.

What are the side effects of MMM?

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:

Risk of 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

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

Bruising and bleeding

This is due to a drop in the number of platelets in your blood. These blood cells help the blood to clot when we cut ourselves. You may have nosebleeds or bleeding gums after brushing your teeth. Or you may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechiae).

Rarely you might bleed from other areas of the body. Tell your medical team if you notice any bleeding. 

Tiredness (fatigue) during and after treatment

Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) can happen during and after treatment - doing gentle exercises each day can keep your energy up. Don't push yourself, rest when you start to feel tired and ask others for help.

Allergic reaction 

An allergic reaction that can cause a rash, shortness of breath, redness or swelling of the face and dizziness - some allergic reactions can be life threatening, alert your nurse or doctor if notice any of these symptoms.

Loss of appetite and weight changes 

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.

Less commonly you might have weight changes.

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.

Metallic taste in the mouth

Talk to your treatment team about this.

Mouth sores and ulcers

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.

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.

Tummy (abdominal) pain 

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

Eye problems

You might have gritty or sensitive eyes. Tell your doctor if you have this. They can prescribe eye drops to soothe them.

Rarely you might have blurred vision or colour changes in the whites of your eyes.

Hair loss or thinning 

You could lose all your hair. This includes your eyelashes, eyebrows, underarm, leg and sometimes pubic hair. Your hair will usually grow back once treatment has finished but it is likely to be softer. It may grow back a different colour or be curlier than before. 

Inflammation of your blood vessels (vasculitis) 

Symptoms can vary depending on which blood vessels are affected. General symptoms include feeling very tired, loss of appetite, weight loss, a high temperature, and aches and pains.

Kidney changes 

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.

Rarely you might have more severe kidney damage or your kidney might stop working. 

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:

  • skin changes such as a rash that may be itchy. Rarely your skin may get red, areas of skin may be lighter or darker and it might be sensitive to sunlight.
  • redness, peeling and soreness on palms of hands or soles of feet
  • nail changes such as colour changes or nails breaking easily
  • breathlessness and cough due to changes in lung tissue
  • liver changes that are usually very mild and picked up on blood tests. Rarely you might have yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), or fatty liver disease
  • heart problems such as a heart attack or heart failure. Rarely you might have changes in heart rhythm such as a fast or slow heart rate.
  • difficulty opening your bowels (constipation)
  • headaches or dizziness - do not drive or operate machinery if you feel dizzy
  • feeling very sleepy or drowsy
  • blue or green urine - this is from the drug Mitoxantrone. It won't harm you.

Rare side effects

This side effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • a blood disorder where your red blood cells get destroyed faster than they can be made (haemolytic anaemia)
  • a second cancer such as lymphoma or leukaemia
  • feeling anxious
  • confusion
  • prickling or crawling feeling in arms or legs
  • low blood pressure – symptoms might include feeling dizzy, sick, confused, weak and tired
  • inflammation of the pancreas - symptoms include severe tummy pain, feeling or being sick, a high temperature or you may have loose poo (pancreatitis)
  • fluid build-up in different parts of the body (oedema)
  • feeling very low (depression)
  • high blood sugar levels (diabetes)
  • feeling like the room or you are spinning around, which can affect your balance (vertigo)
  • blood clots that can be life threatening; signs are pain, redness and swelling where the clot is. Feeling breathless can be a sign of a blood clot in the lung. Contact your advice line or doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms
  • slower wound healing
  • a severe skin reaction that may start as tender red patches which leads to peeling or blistering of the skin. You might also feel feverish, and your eyes may be more sensitive to light. This is serious and could be life threatening
  • muscle aches and pain
  • joint stiffness
  • weakening of the bones (osteoporosis)
  • inflammation or ulceration of the vagina
  • taste changes
  • periods stopping
  • lung changes such as scarring (called fibrosis), or thickening of the lining in the lungs (called pleural thickening)
  • weakness or loss of mobility on one side of the body
  • convulsions
  • changes to brain tissue (a condition called leukoencephalopathy)

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, food 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.

Alcohol 

Avoid drinking alcohol while having this treatment because alcohol can increase side effects

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment 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 and for at least 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Loss of fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.

Men might be able to store sperm before starting treatment. And women might be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue. But these services are not available in every hospital, so you would need to ask your doctor about this.    

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drugs may come through in your breast milk.

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: 
16 Jun 2022
Next review due: 
16 Jun 2025
  • Electronic Medicines Compendium
    Accessed November 2021

  • MMM (Mitomycin/Mitoxantrone/Methotrexate): An Effective New Regimen in the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer

    IE Smith and TJ Powles

    Oncology, 1993

    Volume 50, Supplement 1

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