Today I received my very first denosumab (Xgeva) treatment. This treatment replaces Pamidronate, the bone-building treatment I've been receiving for the last few years.
I think I mentioned before that denosumab has only recently been approved for use in Canada and according to the pharmacist I met today, it's being used for other types of cancers and my oncologist is the one championing its use here. The pharmacist said it was like a "miracle drug" because it's easier to administer, works better than other bisphosphonates, and has almost no side effects compared to the other treatments.
The reason that this drug is so awesome is that it's a monoclonal antibody - a protein that targets only certain cells in the body. Because monoclonal antibodies only attack particular cells and leave all other cells unchanged, they have fewer side effects and work better than most cancer treatments that attack a broad spectrum of cells. It's all those unwanted cells that are being killed by these broad-spectrum treatments that cause all those bad side effects.
One of the great things about this new treatment is that they no longer have to monitor my kidney function the way they did with the pamidronate. They do have to be sure that my blood calcium and phosphorus don't go too low and they'll monitor that with periodic bloodwork but I won't need to have the bloodwork done monthly.
Receiving denosumab is very easy: it's administered exactly like a flu shot and hurts about as much. I had to stay there about twenty minutes after it was injected just to be sure I didn't have a general allergic reaction the way some people do with the flu.
I felt good afterwards and had no tiredness or tenderness or stiffness at the injection site. Hopefully these treatments continue to go as well as this one seems to have gone.