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Isotretinoin (Roaccutane® / Rizuderm®)

There has been some research on isotretinoin and brain tumours, and whether it could benefit cancer patients. Isotretinoin is a drug that health professionals commonly use to treat severe acne, it may also have brand names such as Roaccutane® and Rizuderm®.

Isotretinoin can have serious and dangerous side effects including severe depression, pancreatitis, liver and kidney problems and serious skin rashes. It is also important that women do not take isotretinoin if they are pregnant and do not become pregnant within one month of taking it as it can harm the unborn baby.

NICE does not recommend isotretinoin as a treatment for brain tumours. It is important to speak to your healthcare team before taking any new medications or making changes to your current brain tumour treatment.

Isotretinoin and brain tumours

Scientists discovered that isotretinoin is related to a type of molecule that appeared to affect the growth rate of cancer cells. Trials were conducted in the 1990s. They aimed to see if the drug could lengthen survival in patients with a brain tumour which were unsuccessful.

Following advances in technology which allow scientists to identify tumour characteristics, they were able to identify a relationship between a gene called IDH1 (found in a high percentage of low grade tumours) and the ability of isotretinoin to prolong survival. Further trials took place which unfortunately did not show any benefit to brain tumour patients. After that, no further research was conducted. 

Make the right choices for you

Our Step by Step interactive guide outlines what happens following a diagnosis, to answer your questions and help you to understand what to expect.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
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A member of our Support & Information Team provides support over the phone to somebody affected by a brain tumour diagnosis

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