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Pronunciation/ˈvɪnˈkrɪstn/ (About this soundlisten)[1]
Trade namesOncovin, Vincasar, Marqibo, others[2]
Other namesleurocristine
  • (3aR,3a1R,4R,5S,5aR,10bR)-Methyl 4-acetoxy-3a-ethyl-9-((5S,7S,9S)-5-ethyl-5-hydroxy-9-(methoxycarbonyl)-2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10-octahydro-1H-3,7-methano[1]azacycloundecino[5,4-b]indol-9-yl)-6-formyl-5-hydroxy-8-methoxy-3a,3a1,4,5,5a,6,11,12-octahydro-1H-indolizino[8,1-cd]carbazole-5-carboxylate
Clinical data
  • AU: D
  • US: D (Evidence of risk)
Routes of
Defined daily dosenot established[3]
External links
License data
Legal status
Bioavailabilityn/a (not reliably absorbed by the GI tract)[4]
Protein binding~44%[5]
MetabolismLiver, mostly via CYP3A4 and CYP3A5[4]
Elimination half-life19 to 155 hours (mean: 85 hours)[4]
ExcretionFaeces (70–80%), urine (10–20%)[4]
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass824.958 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)
  • [H][C@]89CN(CCc1c([nH]c2ccccc12)[C@@](C(=O)OC)(c3cc4c(cc3OC)N(C=O)[C@@]5([H])[C@@](O)(C(=O)OC)[C@H](OC(C)=O)[C@]7(CC)C=CCN6CC[C@]45[C@@]67[H])C8)C[C@](O)(CC)C9
  • InChI=1S/C46H56N4O10/c1-7-42(55)22-28-23-45(40(53)58-5,36-30(14-18-48(24-28) ☒N

Vincristine, also known as leurocristine and marketed under the brand name Oncovin among others, is a chemotherapy medication used to treat a number of types of cancer.[6] This includes acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, neuroblastoma, and small cell lung cancer among others.[6] It is given intravenously.[6]

Most people experience some side effects from vincristine treatment.[6] Commonly it causes a change in sensation, hair loss, constipation, difficulty walking, and headaches.[6] Serious side effects may include neuropathic pain, lung damage, or low white blood cells which increases the risk of infection.[6] Use during pregnancy may result in birth defects.[6] It works by stopping cells from dividing properly.[6]

Vincristine was first isolated in 1961.[7] It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.[8] The wholesale cost in the developing world is between US$1.80 and US$42.60 per dose.[9] It is a vinca alkaloid that can be obtained from the Madagascar periwinkle Catharanthus roseus.[7]

Medical uses

Vincristine is delivered via intravenous infusion for use in various types of chemotherapy regimens.[4] Its main uses are in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as part of the chemotherapy regimen CHOP, Hodgkin's lymphoma as part of MOPP, COPP, BEACOPP, or the less popular Stanford V chemotherapy regimen in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and in treatment for nephroblastoma.[4] It is also used to induce remission in ALL with dexamethasone and L-Asparaginase, and in combination with prednisone to treat childhood leukemia.[4] Vincristine is occasionally used as an immunosuppressant, for example, in treating thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) or chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).[4]


The defined daily dose is not established.[3] If vincristine is used alone, it is given once a week strictly into a vein.[10] Any other kind of application, especially into the spinal canal, may kill the person.[10] If given together with other medications, the dosing interval depends on the drug combination.[10] The dose normally is 1.4 mg/m² body surface for adults (at most 2.0 mg/m²) – a higher dose may have severe side effects and even can kill the person, so an exact calculation of the dose is essential.[10] Children can be given 1.5–2.0 mg/m²; children under 10 kg body weight are usually given 0.05 mg/kg once a week as an initial dose.[10]

Side effects

The main side effects of vincristine are chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, hyponatremia, constipation, and hair loss.

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy can be severe, and may be a reason to reduce or avoid using vincristine. The symptoms of this are progressive and enduring tingling numbness, pain and hypersensitivity to cold, beginning in the hands and feet and sometimes affecting the arms and legs.[11] One of the first symptoms of peripheral neuropathy is foot drop: A person with a family history of foot drop and/or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) should avoid the taking of vincristine.[12]

Accidental injection of vinca alkaloids into the spinal canal (intrathecal administration) is highly dangerous, with a mortality rate approaching 100 percent. The medical literature documents cases of ascending paralysis due to massive encephalopathy and spinal nerve demyelination, accompanied by intractable pain, almost uniformly leading to death. Several patients have survived after aggressive and immediate intervention. Rescue treatments consist of washout of the cerebrospinal fluid and administration of protective medications.[13] Children may do better following this injury. One child, who was aggressively treated at the time of the injection, recovered almost completely with only mild neurological deficits.[14] A significant series of inadvertent intrathecal vincristine administration occurred in China in 2007 when batches of cytarabine and methotrexate (both often used intrathecally) manufactured by the company Shanghai Hualian were found to be contaminated with vincristine.[15]

The overuse of vincristine may also lead to drug resistance by overexpression of the p-glycoprotein pump (Pgp). There is an attempt to overcome resistance by the addition of derivatives and substituents to the vincristine molecule.[16]

Mechanism of action

Phases of cell cycle affected by vincristine, and compounds used in combination with vincristine[17]

Vincristine works partly by binding to the tubulin protein, stopping the tubulin dimers from polymerizing to form microtubules, causing the cell to be unable to separate its chromosomes during the metaphase.[18] The cell then undergoes apoptosis.[19] The vincristine molecule inhibits leukocyte production and maturation.[20] A downside, however, to Vincristine is that it does not only affect the division of cancer cells. It affects all rapidly dividing cell types, making it necessary for the very specific administration of the drug.[21]


The natural extraction of vincristine from Catharanthus roseus is produced at a percent yield of less than 0.0003%. For this reason, alternate methods to produce synthetic vincristine are being used.[22] Vincristine is created through the semi-synthesis coupling of indole alkaloids vindoline and catharanthine in the vinca plant.[23] It can also now be synthesized through a stereocontrolled total synthesis technique which retains the correct stereochemistry at C18' and C2'. The absolute stereochemistry at these carbons is responsible for vincristine's anticancer activity.[22]

The liposome encapsulation of vincristine enhances the efficacy of the vincristine drug while simultaneously decreasing the neurotoxicity associated with it. Liposome encapsulation increases vincristine's plasma concentration and circulation lifetime in the body, and allows the drug to enter cells more easily.[24]


Having been used as a folk remedy for centuries, studies in the 1950s revealed that the rosy periwinkle Catharanthus roseus contained over 120 alkaloids, many of which are biologically active, the two most significant being vincristine and vinblastine.[25] While initial studies for its use in diabetes mellitus were disappointing, the discovery that it caused myelosuppression (decreased activity of the bone marrow) led to its study in mice with leukemia, whose lifespan was prolonged by the use of a vinca preparation. Treatment of the ground plant with Skelly-B defatting agent and an acid benzene extract led to a fraction termed "fraction A". This fraction was further treated with aluminium oxide, chromatography, trichloromethane, benz-dichloromethane, and separation by pH to yield vincristine.[26]

Vincristine was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 1963 as Oncovin, a major chemotherapeutic agent.[18] The drug was initially discovered by a team led by Dr. J.G. Armstrong, then marketed by Eli Lilly and Company. Eli Lilly required many leaves of the periwinkle plant. They needed one ton of dried leaves to produce one ounce of vincristine. Periwinkle was grown on a ranch in Texas to produce vincristine for some time.[27]

Society and culture


Until recently, two generic drug makers were suppliers of vincristine in the United States: Teva and Pfizer. In 2019 Teva stopped producing vincristine, leaving Pfizer as the only company in production.[citation needed] Teva has said that they will restart production, and expect it to be available in 2020.[28]


In October 2019 an impending shortage was reported; no adequate substitute is known for treating childhood-cancers.[29]


In 2012, the FDA approved a liposomal formulation of vincristine branded as Marqibo.[30][31][32]

A nano-particle bound version of vincristine was under development as of 2014.[33]


  1. "Vincristine". Random House, Inc. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  2. "NCI Drug Dictionary". NCI. 2011-02-02. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "WHOCC - ATC/DDD Index". Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Brayfield, A, ed. (13 December 2013). "Vincristine". Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference. Pharmaceutical Press. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  5. "Oncovin, Vincasar PFS (vincristine) dosing, indications, interactions, adverse effects, and more". Medscape Reference. WebMD. Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 "Vincristine Sulfate". The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Archived from the original on 2015-01-02. Retrieved Jan 2, 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ravina, Enrique (2011). The evolution of drug discovery : from traditional medicines to modern drugs (1. Aufl. ed.). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. pp. 157–159. ISBN 9783527326693. Archived from the original on 2017-08-01.
  8. World Health Organization (2019). World Health Organization model list of essential medicines: 21st list 2019. Geneva: World Health Organization. hdl:10665/325771. WHO/MVP/EMP/IAU/2019.06. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
  9. "Vincristine". International Drug Price Indicator Guide. Archived from the original on 31 August 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Haberfeld H, ed. (2020). Austria-Codex (in German). Vienna: Österreichischer Apothekerverlag. Oncovin 1 mg-Injektionslösung.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  11. Chemotherapy-induced Peripheral Neuropathy. NCI Cancer Bulletin. Feb 23, 2010 [archived 2011-12-11];7(4):6.
  12. Graf WD, Chance PF, Lensch MW, Eng LJ, Lipe HP, Bird TD (April 1996). "Severe vincristine neuropathy in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A". Cancer. 77 (7): 1356–62. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0142(19960401)77:7<1356::AID-CNCR20>3.0.CO;2-#. PMID 8608515.
  13. Qweider M, Gilsbach JM, Rohde V (March 2007). "Inadvertent intrathecal vincristine administration: a neurosurgical emergency. Case report". Journal of Neurosurgery. Spine. 6 (3): 280–3. doi:10.3171/spi.2007.6.3.280. PMID 17355029.
  14. Zaragoza MR, Ritchey ML, Walter A (January 1995). "Neurourologic consequences of accidental intrathecal vincristine: a case report". Medical and Pediatric Oncology. 24 (1): 61–2. doi:10.1002/mpo.2950240114. PMID 7968797.
  15. Hooker J, Bogdanich W (January 31, 2008). "Tainted Drugs Tied to Maker of Abortion Pill". New York Times. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017.
  16. Sears JE, Boger DL (March 2015). "Total synthesis of vinblastine, related natural products, and key analogues and development of inspired methodology suitable for the systematic study of their structure-function properties". Accounts of Chemical Research. 48 (3): 653–62. doi:10.1021/ar500400w. PMC 4363169. PMID 25586069.
  17. Škubník, Jan; Pavlíčková, Vladimíra Svobodová; Ruml, Tomáš; Rimpelová, Silvie (September 2021). "Vincristine in Combination Therapy of Cancer: Emerging Trends in Clinics". Biology. 10 (9): 849. doi:10.3390/biology10090849. ISSN 2079-7737. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Anticancer Drugs Targeting Tubulin and Microtubules. Elsevier. 2015-01-01. ISBN 9780444626493.
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  20. Silverman JA, Deitcher SR (March 2013). "Marqibo (vincristine sulfate liposome injection) improves the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of vincristine". Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology. 71 (3): 555–64. doi:10.1007/s00280-012-2042-4. PMC 3579462. PMID 23212117.
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  22. 22.0 22.1 Kuboyama T, Yokoshima S, Tokuyama H, Fukuyama T (August 2004). "Stereocontrolled total synthesis of (+)-vincristine". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101 (33): 11966–70. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401323101. PMC 514417. PMID 15141084.
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  30. FDA press release Aug 9, 2012 Archived 2014-11-09 at the Wayback Machine
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  33. Bind Therapeutics conference call of Nov 6, 2014 Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine

External links

External sites: