Oncology Drug Reference Sheet: Cabozantinib

April 23, 2019 by Kathleen Wiley MSN, RN, AOCNS®

Cabozantinib (Cabometyx®) received an additional U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indication in January 2019 for use in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who have already been treated with sorafenib. It received prior approval for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma in 2017. The research leading to the approval in the HCC setting showed improved overall survival, progression-free survival, and overall response in the cabozantinib treatment arm (https://voice.ons.org/news-and-views/fda-approves-cabozantinib-for-hepatocellular-carcinoma).

Of note: cabozantinib is also marketed as Cometriq® for the treatment of patients with progressive, metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. Cometriq should not be substituted for Cabometyx. 


Multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor (including VEGFR-1) 


Current approved indications are for advanced renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma following sorafenib. 


Administer 60 mg orally once daily without food. Doses should be withheld for any intolerable grade 2 adverse event, any grade 3 or 4 event, or osteonecrosis of the jaw. Upon resolution, cabozantinib can be restarted following a dose-reduced regimen. It should be stopped at least 28 days prior to scheduled surgery and not resumed until adequate wound healing.                            


Cabozantinib is taken orally, and patients should avoid food and drink for two hours prior to dosing and one hour after. Instruct patients to take the tablets whole with water and not to crush or manipulate the pills in any way (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/208692s000lbl.pdf).      

Adverse Reactions 

Most common side effects are diarrhea, fatigue, decreased appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia, mouth pain, and hypertension. Less common but severe and fatal effects are thrombotic events (7%), hemorrhage (5%), and perforations and fistulas (1%). Osteonecrosis of the jaw is rare (< 1%) but considered serious, and the drug should be discontinued if encountered (https://voice.ons.org/news-and-views/fda-approves-cabozantinib-for-hepatocellular-carcinoma).  

Nursing Considerations

Drug-Drug and Drug-Food Interactions  

Patient Education

Gero-Oncology Considerations

Because many older adults have comorbidities or are prescribed other pharmacologic agents, polypharmacy and concomitant medications should be considered. No overall differences in safety or effectiveness was seen in clinical trials between patients aged 65 or older and younger patients. 

Safe Handling

Cabozantinib is a hazardous drug that has been demonstrated to be embryotoxic. Safe handling recommendations (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2016-161/pdfs/2016-161.pdf) should be adhered to during all administration and handling activities.

Patient Assistance

Patient assistance may be available through the EASE program (https://cabometyx.com/financial-support). To find out which patients may qualify, call 844-900-EASE. 

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