Paclitaxel

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
paclitaxel Taxol
paclitaxel protein-bound Abraxane

How It Works

Paclitaxel interferes with the cancer cell's ability to reproduce. Paclitaxel is an intravenous (IV) medication. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule of administering this medication.

Why It Is Used

Paclitaxel slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is commonly used to treat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, bladder cancer, and non–small cell lung cancer.

How Well It Works

Paclitaxel is an effective antitumor medication. However, the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medication slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

Possible serious side effects of paclitaxel include:

  • Allergic reactions. Signs of allergic reaction can include trouble breathing; swelling or closing of the throat; swollen face, tongue, or lips; or hives.
  • Feeling extremely tired, bruising or bleeding easily, or signs of infection such as a fever or chills. These symptoms may mean that the medicine caused the numbers of your white or red blood cells or platelets to drop.
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes or belly pain. This may mean the medicine has damaged your liver.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy).
  • A drop in the heart rate (bradycardia) or blood pressure (hypotension). Your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored while you are receiving this medication.

Less serious side effects are more common and may include:

  • Joint pain.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis) and a sore throat.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Hair loss. This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Paclitaxel should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medication. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Paclitaxel can cause birth defects. Do not use this medication if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or to father a child while you are taking it.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Abramowicz M (2003). Treatment guidelines: Drugs of choice for cancer. Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 1(7): 41–52.

Last Updated: June 4, 2008

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