Chemo Experts, the easiest way to learn about cancer treatment
Find a Treatment:
Cancer Types

Treatment Name: Bexarotene (Targretin®)

Bexarotene (Targretin®) is a Chemotherapy Regimen for Lymphoma, T-Cell

How does bexarotene work?
Bexarotene is designed to bind to specific receptors within cancer cells called "Retinoid X-Receptors" or RXR's. After binding to RXR's, the chemotherapy drug bexarotene slows down the growth of the cancerous T-cells.

Goals of therapy:
Bexarotene is given to decrease skin-related symptoms caused by cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Bexarotene is not commonly given with the goal of cure.


Create your own Treatment Tracker

  • Usual starting dose: Bexarotene 300 mg/m2 by mouth once daily
    • Bexarotene is only available in 75 mg capsules
    • Depending upon the patient's height and weight, this dose is usually ranges between
      450 mg (six 75 mg capsules) and 675 mg (nine 75 mg capsules) per day

Bexarotene is usually taken at home and is taken every day until it no longer works or unacceptable side effects are experienced.

Side Effects

In clinical studies, the most commonly reported side effects with bexarotene are shown here:

  • Increased lipid in blood (82%)
  • Increased blood cholesterol (30%)
  • Decreased thyroid function (29%)
  • Itching (25%)
  • Weakness (23%)
  • Headache (21%)
  • Water retention (20%)
  • Pain (18%)
  • Infection (18%)
  • Rash (18%)
  • Low white blood cells (16%)
  • Skin flaking (9%)
  • Diarrhea (7%)
  • Fever (7%)
  • Anemia [low red blood cells] (7%)

Side effect videos Side Effect Videos


How often is monitoring needed?
Labs (blood tests) may be checked before starting treatment and then periodically while taking bexarotene. Labs often include: Complete Blood Count (CBC), Comprehesive Metabolic Panel (CMP), fasting lipid panel, thyroid function tests, plus any others your doctor may order.

How often is imaging needed?
Imaging may be checked before treatment and periodically during treatment. Imaging may include: computed tomography (CT) scan or positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

How might blood test results/imaging affect treatment?
Depending upon the results, your doctor may advise to continue bexarotene as planned, or delay or switch therapy.

ChemoExperts Tips

  • Because bexarotene is similar to vitamin A, it is not recommended to take supplements containing high amounts of Vitamin A. If you take multi-vitamins, ask your doctor or pharmacist to be sure you are not taking more than the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure and tanning beds as your skin may be very sensitive to light
  • A pharmacist should ALWAYS review your medication list to ensure that drug interactions are prevented or managed appropriately
  • Clinical trials may exist for T-cell lymphoma. Ask your doctor if any studies are currently enrolling in your area. If not, go to to search for other centers offering study medications

Patient Assistance & Co-payment Coverage

Patients under the age of 65 years, or those with private insurance plans:
If you have insurance and are looking for patient assistance or copay assistance for Bexarotene (Targretin®), we have provided links that may help.

Visit our Patient Assistance page and click the links to various patient assistance programs for help paying for Bexarotene (Targretin®). Depending upon your income, they may be able to help cover the cost of:

  • Bexarotene

For Branded medications (may be available for generic medications too), check with the manufacturer to determine if a co-pay card is offered and if it could reduce your monthly copay.

  • If you are uninsured, check with the manufacturer to determine if you are eligible to receive medication at no cost.

Medicare and Medicaid patients (Patients 65 years or older):
The clinic providing treatment will likely pre-authorize medications and immune therapies such as Bexarotene (Targretin®) and are the best source to help you understand drug cost.

  • Ask to speak with a patient assistance technician or financial counselor at the clinic or hospital administering this therapy.

Emotional Wellness

What is Emotional Wellness?
Emotional wellness is having a positive outlook balanced with a realistic understanding of current life events. This requires both an awareness and acceptance of your emotions. It is with this knowledge that you can develop a plan to take the necessary actions to positively impact your life.

Emotional wellness uses an ongoing process to continually reflect on the stressors of life in a constructive manner to move forward and create happiness.

Because emotional wellness is deeply connected with physical, social, and spiritual wellness, pursuing it often becomes particularly difficult in times of major illness. Despite this difficulty, working toward emotional wellness has been connected to improved treatment outcomes and a higher likelihood of achieving goals of therapy.

Learn more about pursuing emotional wellness while receiving treatment with Bexarotene (Targretin®)

Individual Drug Label Information

Bexarotene (Targretin®)

  • Bexarotene is an oral capsule filled with liquid that is available only as a 75 mg capsule
  • Men or women of child-bearing potential MUST follow strict pre-cautions. Females must have a negative pregnancy test prior to starting treatment, then a monthly pregnancy test must be done while taking bexarotene. At least two effective birth control methods must be started 1 month before starting bexarotene and continued at least 1 month after stopping therapy. Males must use condoms during treatment and for at least one month after stopping therapy. 
  • Do not crush, crew, or break open capsules. If the liquid inside the capsule come in contact with your skin, wash area of skin immediately with soap and water 
  • Take with food to increase blood levels of bexarotene. Fat-containing meals increase absorption.
  • If you miss a dose, take the dose as soon as you remember if it is still the same day it should have been taken. If it is the next day, take the normal dose and do not double your dose to make up for the missed one 
  • Bexarotene should be stored in a dry place at room temperature and protected from light 
  • Dosage adjustments may be required for liver damage, high blood lipids, or low blood counts
General Bexarotene (Targretin) Side Effects 
  • The most common side effect seen is increased lipids (fats in the blood). Blood tests will be done during treatment to monitor lipid levels in your blood and you may need to take medications that help lower blood lipids levels 
  • Bexarotene may cause your thyroid to be underactive. Speak with your doctor if you experience signs of an underactive thyroid such as cold/dry skin, fatigue, weakness, depression, or muscle aches 
  • May cause changes in vision. If your vision worsens, contact your doctor Can cause dangerous decreases in blood sugar in patients with diabetes taking insulin or other diabetic medications 
  • Skin rash, itching, or flaking can be common 
  • Click on the bexarotene (Targretin) package insert below for reported side effects and possible drug interactions

Side Effect Videos

See DailyMed package insert.

Share this page:


Duvic M, Hymes K, Heald P, et al. Bexarotene Is effective and safe for treatment of refractory advanced-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: multinational phase II-III trial results. J Clin Oncol. 2001;19:2456-2471.

Created: November 8, 2015 Updated: September 22, 2018

What is Lymphoma, T-Cell?

A disease of lymphocytes called T-lymphocytes, or "T-cells" that are found most commonly in the skin, spleen, blood, bone marrow, and/or lymph nodes. Peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) are the two main types of T-cell lymphoma; however, there are many different subtypes of PTCL and CTCL and all are very rare.

The exact cause of T-cell lymphomas is not known, but certain viral infections such as the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and human T-cell leukemia virus have been associated with development of T-cell lymphomas. The stage of T-cell lymphoma can vary at diagnosis and throughout treatment. Stages of T-cell lymphoma include stage I, II, III, and IV. The effectiveness of the treatment may depend upon the stage and specific subtype at diagnosis.

NOTE: Treatment Options listed below are not all-inclusive. Other treatments may be available. ChemoExperts provides drug information and does not recommend any one treatment over another. Only your Doctor can choose which therapy is appropriate for you.

What is a CBC?

A Complete Blood Count (CBC) is a frequently ordered blood test that tells clinicians the status of your: 1) White blood cell count, 2) Hemoglobin, and 3) Platelet count at the time the test was taken.

Common uses:
1) White blood cell count (WBC): is used to determine infection risk, or response to chemotherapy. Certain chemotherapy agents may harm our good infection-fighting cells. Sometimes chemotherapy may need to be delayed to allow these cells to recover.

2) Hemoglobin: is used to determine if someone is anemic. Anytime the hemoglobin is below 12 g/dL, the person is said to be anemic. Red blood cell transfusions, and sometimes iron can be given to restore the hemoglobin level, but anemia treatment should always aim at treating the underlying cause or condition.

3) Platelet count: is used to determine if the risk of bleeding is increased or if a platelet transfusion is required to prevent bleeding. Certain medications that increase bleeding risk, such as: aspirin, certain chemotherapy agents, and blood thinners, may need to be stopped temporarily until the platelet count is within a safe range.

What is a CMP?

A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) is a frequently ordered blood test that tells clinicians the status of your: 1) Electrolytes & Acid/Base status2) Kidney function, 3) Liver function, 4) Blood sugar, and 5) Calcium at the time the test was taken. It is commonly used to monitor liver and kidney function when beginning new medications such as chemotherapy. A total of 14 tests are run simultaneously and are shown below.

Electrolytes & Acid/Base status:
1) Sodium, 2) Potassium, 3) Carbon dioxide, 4) Chloride

Kidney Function:
5) BUN (blood urea nitrogen), 6) Serum creatinine (Scr)

Liver Function:
7) AST, 8) ALT, 9) Total bilirubin, 10) Alk Phos, 11) Albumin, 12) Total protein

Blood sugar:
13) Serum glucose

14) Serum calcium

What does Cure mean?

The word “cure” means there are no cancer cells left in the body and cancer will never come back. Depending on the cancer type and stage, this may be the true goal of therapy. However, it is very difficult to prove all cancer cells are gone. Even though images, like X-rays and MRI’s, and blood tests may not show any signs of cancer, there can be a small amount of cancer cells still left in the body. Because of this, the word “remission” is used more often. This means there are no signs or symptoms of cancer. Patients in remission are followed closely for any signs of cancer returning. Sometimes, more chemotherapy may be given while in remission to prevent the cancer from coming back.

Doctors usually do not consider a patient “cured” until the chance of cancer returning is extremely low. If cancer does return, it usually happens within 5 years of having a remission. Because of this, doctors do not consider a patient cured unless the cancer has not come back within 5 years of remission. The five-year cutoff does not apply to all cancers.