Temsirolimus is pronounced tem-sir-oh-li-mus. It is also known by its brand name Torisel. Temsirolimus is a treatment for:
- advanced kidney cancer
- mantle cell lymphoma
How it works
Temsirolimus is a type of targeted cancer drug treatment called an mTOR inhibitor. It blocks the effects of a protein called mTOR that is often over active in cancer cells. This protein makes the cells divide and grow.
Temsirolimus also stops the cancer from making blood vessels, which the cells need to be able to grow. This is called an anti angiogenesis treatment. So temsirolimus might help to stop the cancer growing or may slow the growth of the cancer.
How you have it
Temsirolimus is a colourless or pale yellow liquid that you have into your bloodstream (intravenously). It takes between 30 and 60 minutes.
You have an anti histamine drug before each dose.
You have the treatment through a drip into your arm or hand. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.
You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.
When you have it
For kidney cancer you have temsirolimus once a week. You usually carry on having it for as long as it works, unless the side effects get severe.
For mantle cell lymphoma you have the drug once a week. You start on a higher dose for the first 3 weeks and then have a lower dose for the rest of your treatment.
You usually carry on having temsirolimus for as long as it works, unless the side effects get severe.
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.
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.
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
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 10 people (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.
Tiredness and looking pale
You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.
Bruising, bleeding gums or nosebleeds
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).
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.
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.
Build up of fluid
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.
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.
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.
Taste changes may make you go off certain foods and drinks. You may also find that some foods taste different from usual or that you prefer to eat spicier foods. Your taste gradually returns to normal a few weeks after your treatment finishes.
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.
High blood sugar levels
You have regular blood and urine tests to check this. If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood sugar levels more often than usual.
Tummy (abdominal) pain
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have this.
Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)
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.
Low levels of potassium in the blood
Low levels of potassium in the blood is called hypokalaemia. Regular blood tests will check for this.
Let your doctor or nurse know if you have cramping in your arm or leg muscles, tingling or numbness, palpitations (feeling your heartbeat irregularly), or if you feel faint.
Joint or muscle pain
You might feel some pain from your muscles and joints. Speak to your doctor or nurse about what painkillers you can take to help with this.
Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
It can help to change a few things about how you try to sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day and spend some time relaxing before you go to bed. Some light exercise each day may also help.
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.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you keep getting headaches. They can give you painkillers to help.
High cholesterol levels
You will have regular blood tests to check this.
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.
Occasional side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- depression and anxiety
- allergic reaction (while having treatment into your bloodstream)
- numbness and tingling in your fingers and toes
- blood clots
- liver changes that show up in blood tests but are unlikely to cause problems
- high blood pressure
- severe skin changes
- runny nose
- sore throat
- abnormal levels of some substances in the blood, such as low calcium and phosphate
- difficulty swallowing
- nail changes
- long term lung disease causing breathing problems
- sore and watery eyes
- build up of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
Rare side effects
Each of these effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- a hole (perforation) in your bowel
- fluid build up around the heart
- hoarse voice
- blood clots in the lung
- bleeding in the brain
- kidney failure
- problems with wound healing after surgery
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 can react with the drug.
This drug contains alcohol and can be harmful to people who drink alcohol or are alcoholic.
Pregnancy and contraception
This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you're having treatment. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
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.
Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through into 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.
Slow wound healing
This treatment can slow wound healing. If you need to have an operation you may need to stop taking it for a while beforehand. Your doctor will let you know when you can start taking it again.
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
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.
This page is due for review. We will update this as soon as possible.