Sunitinib (Generic Name)

Other Names: Sutent

About this drug

This drug is used to treat cancer. It is given by mouth (orally).

Possible side effects

  • Bone marrow depression; This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It may increase your risk for infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Unusual bleeding, including nose bleeds, rectal bleeding, blood in stool, gum bleeding, and wound bleeding
  • Increased blood pressure; Your blood pressure will be monitored as needed.
  • Changes in your heart function; Your doctor will monitor your heart function as needed.
  • Stomach ache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel movements; Some patients experience diarrhea, while other patients experience constipation.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin and hair color changes; The skin may discolor or lose some color. Hair may lose some color. There may be hair thinning or moderate hair loss.
  • Hand-and-foot syndrome; The palms of your hands or soles of your feet may tingle or become numb, painful, swollen, or red. Rarely, blistering and severe skin reactions occur.
  • Other skin changes, including rash, dry skin, thicker skin, or cracked skin
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat; You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that are painful.
  • Fever
  • Taste changes
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Back, arm, and leg aches and pains
  • Swelling (fluid retention) in the legs, ankles, or feet
  • Changes in liver function; Blood tests will be used to check your liver enzymes as needed.
  • Low potassium levels and other electrolyte changes; Blood tests will be used to check your electrolytes as needed.
  • Blood clots (rare); A blood clot in your leg may cause your leg to swell, appear red and warm, and/or cause pain. A blood clot in your lungs may cause shortness of breath, pain when breathing, and/or chest pain.
  • Effects on an unborn child; This drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child. For this reason, be sure to use effective methods of birth control during cancer treatment and for 2 weeks after stopping this drug. If you are exposed to this drug while pregnant, ask to speak to a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems with the fetus and with future pregnancies.
  • breastfeeding; Women are advised not to breastfeed during treatment because this drug could enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breastfeeding infant.

Treating side effects

  • Due to an increased risk of bleeding problems, your cancer doctor may recommend that you stop taking sunitinib before you have a surgical procedure. If you must have emergency surgery, or you have an accident that results in bleeding, tell your treating doctor that you are on sunitinib. Call your cancer doctor as soon as possible for further instructions.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea, vomiting, stomach or abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
  • If you are constipated, ask your doctor or nurse for medications and diet suggestions that may help you move your bowels regularly. Do not use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories without checking with your doctor or nurse.
  • Do not put anything on your rash, reddened skin, or sores on your skin unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gently brushing with a very soft tooth brush and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. Do this at least after every meal and at bed time. Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Discuss effective methods of birth control with your doctor.

Food and drug interactions

  • Grapefruit may interact with sunitinib. This drug may interact with other medication.
    Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medication and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are currently taking. St. John’s Wort may interact with sunitinib. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor’s advice.
  • Swallow the capsule whole with water.
  • You may take this drug on an empty stomach or with food.

When to call the doctor

Notify your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38.0 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or pain when inhaling
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than 3 times in 1 day
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, especially on 1 side of your body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Diarrhea of 5 or 6 stools in 1 day, or diarrhea with weakness


Notify your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Palms or soles of feet tingle; become numb, painful, or swollen; or develop blisters
  • Sores, rash, reddened areas, or itchiness that is unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Swelling (fluid retention) in the legs, ankles, or feet
  • Leg that is swollen, red, warm, and/or painful
  • No bowel movement for 3 days, or if you feel uncomfortable
  • Pain unrelieved by prescribed medications
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea that is unrelieved by prescribed medications
  • Painful mouth or throat, or if you are unable to eat or drink
  • Persistent loss of appetite or fast weight loss (such as 5 pounds in 1 week)
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness that interferes with daily activities

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