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Breast Cancer Treatment - Taxol (Paclitaxel) - Chemotherapy Drug Profile

Taxol (Paclitaxel) - Used to Treat Any Stage of Breast Cancer


Updated May 16, 2014

Taxol Molecule

This model of a taxol molecule was computer generated. Taxol, originally extracted from the pacific yew tree (taxus brevifolin), is used as chemotherapy for a variety of cancers.

George McGregor. National Cancer Institute
Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy drug that is given for breast cancer. Also called Taxol®, it is part of the drug class taxanes, which includes docetaxel (Taxotere®) and Abraxane®, which are made from Yew trees (genus Taxus).

Definition: Taxol is a taxane drug and mitotic inhibitor that is used to treat cancer. It is a clear, colorless fluid that is given as a chemotherapy infusion. Because it is quite thick and sticky, it requires a pump to properly administer the infusion.

Use for breast cancer: This drug is given to treat breast cancer, after combination anthracycline and cytoxan therapy. Taxol is given for early stage and metastatic breast cancer and is also given as neoadjuvant treatment (to shrink a tumor before surgery).

Other uses: In addition to breast cancer, Taxol is used to treat ovarian cancer, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, and AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma. It can also be used together with a drug called cisplatin to treat advanced ovarian cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Also Known As: Taxol, Onxol®

How it works: Taxol is called a mitotic inhibitor. Cells grow by a process called mitosis (cell division). Taxol targets rapidly growing cancer cells, sticks to them while they are trying to divide, and prevents them from completing the division process. Since the cancer cells cannot divide into new cells, it can't grow and metastasize.

How Taxol is Given: Doses of Taxol are given as an infusion, pumped from a dose bag into a vein. Taxol is mixed with Cremophor EL (polyoxyethylated castor oil). It can be given as high-dose chemo, once every three weeks, once every two weeks, or in low doses on a weekly basis. In some rare cases, Taxol may be given slowly during a 24-hour infusion. You will be given premedications to prevent allergic reactions and nausea.

Taxol - Side Effects, Risks, Recommendations

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