Doxorubicin, or, Adriamycin

Learn about your cancer drugs.


Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is a general chemotherapy drug widely used for a number of cancers.  It 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.

There is now a liposomal form which 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 membrane, and other cell membranes more effectively.

The drug is used to treat breast cancer, prostate cancer (though less and less so), ovarian cancer, Karposi’s sarcoma and multiple myeloma.

Please note: Side-effects 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. We have also covered the poor effectiveness of the drug where the p53 gene is mutated. (see HERE)

We suggest you ask your oncologist about the above.

Further reading:

Readers may also wish to read our article on Medicinal Mushrooms (click here).

Why not read our overview of your cancer? Click here. The following articles could also be beneficial for you- A diet for chemotherapy (click here) and How to boost your immune system (click here).

To return to the drug list, click here.

Learn about your cancer drugs.
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