Ovarian Cancer Home > Hexalen

If you have ovarian cancer, your healthcare provider may prescribe Hexalen to help reduce your symptoms. Although this medication is not a cure for ovarian cancer, it can help prevent cancer cells from growing and multiplying. This drug comes as a capsule that is taken four times daily. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and numbness in the hands or feet.

What Is Hexalen?

Hexalen® (altretamine) is a prescription chemotherapy medication. It is approved for the palliative treatment of ovarian cancer (cancer of the ovaries) that has returned or continues to progress despite treatment with other medications. Palliative treatment is treatment that is aimed at reducing symptoms of a condition but does not cure it.
(Click Hexalen Uses for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes This Medication?

Hexalen is manufactured by AAIPharma, Inc., for Eisai, Inc.

Clinical Effects

In clinical studies, Hexalen was given to women with ovarian cancer who had previously been treated with chemotherapy medicine combinations, including cisplatin (Platinol®) or medicines in the same class as Hexalen (other alkylating agents). In these studies, 18 percent of women had either a complete or partial response to Hexalen. The response lasted anywhere from 2 months to 36 months.

How Does Hexalen Work?

It is not entirely known how Hexalen works against cancer. It belongs to a class of medications called alkylating agents, and may work like other alkylating agents.
In general, alkylating agents work by causing strands of DNA to bond to each other and become linked (this is known as "cross-linking"). The linked strands cannot uncoil and separate, which is necessary for the DNA to replicate. Because DNA replication is essential for cells to grow and multiply, alkylating agents like Hexalen prevent cell growth and multiplication, and may cause cell death.
Hexalen itself is not active against cancer cells. Instead, the medication must be converted into an active form once it is in the body.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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