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Treatment Name: Decitabine (Dacogen®)

Decitabine (Dacogen®) is a Chemotherapy Regimen for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

How does decitabine work?

Decitabine is designed to help the bone marrow produce more healthy and normal functioning cells.

Goals of therapy:

Decitabine is given to help increase blood cell counts, reduce the risk of infection, reduce the amount of blood transfusions needed, and decrease the risk of bleeding. Decitabine is not commonly given with the goal of cure for AML.


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How is decitabine therapy for AML given?

  • Decitabine intravenous infusion over 60 minutes on Days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Decitabine is usually given in an outpatient infusion center, allowing the person to go home afterwards. On occasion, decitabine may be given in the hospital if someone is too sick.

Decitabine is repeated every 28 days. This is known as one cycle. Treatment is continued until decitabine is no longer working or it is stopped because of unacceptable side effects.

Estimated total infusion time for this treatment:

  • 60 minutes
  • Infusion times are based on clinical studies, but may vary depending on doctor preference or patient tolerability.  Pre-medications and intravenous (I.V.) fluids, such as hydration, may add more time

Click here for common starting doses.

Side Effects

What are the most common side effects from decitabine for AML?

In clinical studies, the most commonly reported serious side effects (grade 3 and 4) with decitabine are shown here:

On average, 8% of patients discontinue decitabine due to unacceptable side effects.

Importantly, not all people who experience a side effect from decitabine will experience it in the same way. It may be mild in some or severe in others, depending upon the individual. Everybody is different. Additionally, side effects may vary over time. For some, side effects may be a reason to delay or switch treatment, reduce the dose, or avoid treatment with a certain medication altogether.

Side effects may be treatable when they occur or preventable by taking certain medications before they happen. When medications are taken to prevent a problem, this is known as prophylaxis, or "prophy" for short.

After starting treatment with decitabine, be sure to come back and watch all of the side effect videos shown below. Each of these videos contain valuable information about side effect management that will hopefully help you to both feel better and stay out of the hospital.

Watch videos on common decitabine therapy side effects below

Side effect videos Side Effect Videos
BleedingBleedingAnemiaAnemiaNeutropenic FeverNeutropenic Fever


How often is monitoring needed?

Labs (blood tests) may be checked before treatment and periodically during treatment. They may be checked more often after the start of therapy until blood counts start to increase. Once blood counts return to safer levels, labs may be checked less frequently. Labs often include: Complete Blood Count (CBC), Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), plus any others your doctor may order.

How often is imaging needed?

Imaging may be checked if there is concern for an infection or internal bleeding. Imaging may include: computerized tomography (CT) scans and x-rays.

How might blood test results/imaging affect treatment?

Depending upon the results, your doctor may advise to continue decitabine as planned, or delay or switch therapy

ChemoExperts Tips

  • Your blood counts may initially decrease or remain very low after beginning therapy and blood transfusion may be needed or their frequency may increase. On average, it takes 3 - 4 cycles (= 3 - 4 months) to see an improvement in the White Blood Cell, Hemoglobin, or Platelet count
  • A pharmacist should ALWAYS review your medication list to ensure that drug interactions are prevented or managed appropriately
  • Clinical trials may exist for AML. 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 Decitabine (Dacogen®), 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 Decitabine (Dacogen®). Depending upon your income, they may be able to help cover the cost of:

  • Decitabine

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 Decitabine (Dacogen®) 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 Decitabine (Dacogen®)

Individual Drug Label Information

Decitabine (Dacogen®)

  • Decitabine is an intravenous infusion 
  • Dosage adjustments may be required for low white blood cells or low platelets 
General Decitabine (Dacogen) Side Effects  
  • Fever, with or without shaking 
  • Water retention Infection, such as pneumonia (lung) or cellulitis (skin) 
  • High blood sugar 
  • Cough 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Headache 
  • Bruising or bleeding 
  • Rash 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abdominal Pain 
  • Heartburn 
  • Mouth sores 
  • Hemorrhoids 
  • May cause red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets to decrease 
  • Click on the decitabine (Dacogen) package insert below for reported side effects and possible drug interactions

Side Effect Videos
Nausea and VomitingNausea and VomitingDiarrheaDiarrheaFatigue Fatigue ConstipationConstipationPainPainAnemiaAnemia

See DailyMed package insert.

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1.) Kantarjian HM, Thomas XG, Dmoszynska A, et al. Multicenter, randomized, open-label, phase III trial of decitabine versus patient choice, with physician advice, of either supportive care or low-dose cytarabine for the treatment of older patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia. J Clin Oncol 2012;30(21):2670-7

Created: April 2, 2020 Updated: April 2, 2020

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)?

A disease of the myeloid cells found in the bone marrow. Myeloid cells are responsible for developing into mature white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. In AML, immature myeloid cells know as “blasts” replicate at a very fast rate. Sometimes blasts crowd out the normal cells in the bone marrow so that red blood cells or platelets are unable to develop. Common symptoms of this include fatigue, difficulty exercising, or easy bruising or bleeding.

Most cases of AML are considered “de novo” meaning that the cause is unknown. However, there are a few known risk factors for AML, such as exposure to radiation, various environmental toxins, and certain chemotherapy agents. There is no staging system for AML. Chromosomes (strands of DNA) are often analyzed to determine which mutations in the chromosomes exist. The effectiveness of the treatment may depend upon the specific chromosome mutations that are present.

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.

Common Starting doses

  • Decitabine 20 mg/m2 intravenous infusion over 60 minutes on Days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Note: Individual doses may vary based upon your Doctor's recommendation, or drug availability

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.