Doxorubicin, or Adriamycin, and Doxil

Learn about your cancer drugs.

Patient-friendly review of the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) widely used for a number of cancers including breast cancer, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma and Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia; first approved by the FDA in 1974, doxorubicin is toxic to cancer cells, and is administered intravenously.  Used more commonly in the US than in the UK, it is often used in combination with other drugs and was originally made from the bacterium Streptomyces peucetius.Chemotherapy

There is now a liposomal form, Doxil  - Doxorubicin Hydrochloride Liposome - which is used to treat some sarcomas and is administered through a drip directly into the blood stream. Liposomes are little fatty balloons that normally wrap up digested food particles in order to carry them across the gut and other cell membranes more effectively. The drug Lartruva can also be used with Doxorubicin for sarcoma.

Side-effects: According to the manufacturer's Website, these can be life-threatening and include: decreased white blood cell and platelet counts, increased risk of infection, loss of appetite, darkening of nail beds and skin creases of hands, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores and, at higher doses, it may be toxic to the heart.

A study reported in Cancer (June 1st 2003) suggested that the drug causes congestive heart failure more frequently, and at lower doses, than had been reported previously. Patients with pre-existing heart problems may need to have a cardiac evaluation before use.

Research on Integrative and Complementary Treatments for doxorubicin

1. There is some evidence that supplementation with coenzyme Q10 can reduce the damaging side-effects of the drug (see HERE; and NCI report on CoQ10).

2. Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine noted that results using the drug with prostate cancer patients were much improved when taking an extract of the East Asian mushroom Phellinus Linteus). In one test they found that neither the mushroom extract nor doxorubicin were effective in small doses but the doxorubicin became effective as doses increased. When the mushroom extract was added, the results were much better still, with many more cancer cells killed. Thus when using the mushroom extract, the drug could be used at lower, safer levels. (British Journal of Cancer August 2006).

3. The drug is not very effective where the p53 gene is mutated. (see HERE)

4. In cases of breast cancer, curcumin or turmeric supplementation corrects the p53 problem and/or reduces the build up of chemo resistence to Doxorubicin (See HERE)

5. You can also improve the effectiveness of your chemotherapy, and reduce potential side-effects.

Go to: 10 ways to improve chemotherapy success and reduce side-effects

We suggest you ask your oncologist about the above.

Further reading:

Medicinal Mushrooms (click here).

A diet for chemotherapy (click here)

Go to: Return to A-Z list of Drugs

Learn about your cancer drugs.
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