Other Names: Calcium Leucovorin, Citrovorum Factor, Folinic Acid
Leucovorin is a reduced folic acid. Leucovorin is used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs to either enhance effectiveness, or as a “chemoprotectant.” (For more detail, see “How Leucovorin Works” section below).
What Leucovorin Is Used For:
- In combination with fluoruracil to treat cancers such as; colon and rectal, head and neck, esophageal, and other cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
- As an antidote to effects of certain chemotherapy drugs such as methotrexate.
- Treatment of megaloblastic anemia when folic acid deficiency is present.
How Leucovorin Works:
Leucovorin is a compound similar to folic acid, which is a necessary vitamin. It has been around and in use for many decades. Leucovorin is a medication frequently used in combination with the chemotherapy drugs fluoruracil and methotrexate. Leucovorin is not a chemotherapy drug itself, however it is used in addition to these chemotherapy drugs to enhance anti cancer effects (with fluorouracil) or to help prevent or lessen side effects (with methotrexate).
Fluorouracil when given alone stays in the body for only a short time. When given in combination with Leucovorin, Leucovorin can enhance the binding of fluorouracil to an enzyme inside of the cancer cells. As a result fluorouracil may stay in the cancer cell longer and exert its anti cancer effect on the cells. Leucovorin has almost no side effects of its own but when used in combination with fluorouracil it can increase the severity of side effects of that drug.
Methotrexate exerts its chemotherapeutic effect by being able to counteract and compete with folic acid in cancer cells resulting in folic acid deficiency in the cells and causing their death. This action also effects normal cells which can cause significant side effects in the body, such as: low white, red and platelet blood cell counts, hair loss, mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, liver, lung, nerve and kidney damage. These complications and side effects of methotrexate can be either prevented or decreased by using Leucovorin, which provides a source of folic acid for the body’s cells. Leucovorin is normally started 24 hours after methotrexate is given. This delay gives the methotrexate a chance to exert its anti cancer effects.
Leucovorin is also used by itself to treat certain anemia problems when folic acid deficiency is present.