Epirubicin, Ellence or Pharmorubicin

Epirubicin, Ellence or Pharmorubicin

This patient-friendly article is about chemotherapy drug, Epirubicin, Ellence or Pharmorubicin marketed by Pfizer in the USA under the brand name Ellence, and Epirubicin or Pharmorubicin elsewhere; it is an anthracycline chemotherapy agent used for breast, pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers.

Epirubicin has been approved for use worldwide since the 1990s. It is a bright red liquid which is an isomer of the anti-neoplastic antibiotic Doxorubicin. It acts by binding into the DNA interacting with topoisomerase II enzymes, thereby inhibiting DNA replication and repair, and  both RNA and protein synthesis. It also produces toxic free-radicals and interacts with cell membrane lipids causing lipid peroxidation. It is used instead of doxorubicin because its toxicity and side effects were less severe. However, US research (Medline) suggests that it may cause severe heart problems years after taking it.

In breast cancer, clinical trials have shown that combinations of chemotherapy are more active and increase a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer if they include epirubicin or adriamycin. In this situation it is given intravenously in combination with one or two other chemotherapy drugs, cyclophosphaniide and often Fluorouracil (5-FU) This forms the combination FEC, or EC, which after three or four rounds often has Taxotere (Docetaxel) added and is dubbed FEC-T for another 2 or 3 rounds.

It is usually used after surgery, but may be used before if doctors want to shrink the size of the tumour.

Side effects: can include: fatigue, nausea and vomiting, sore mouth and throat, sensitivity to sunlight. Temporary hair loss is very likely. 

Approved by

the Medical Board. 

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

Other articles that you may find interesting are:

  1. A diet for Chemotherapy
  2. Immunotherapy overview
  3. A to Z Guide to Complementary Therapies

Go to: Return to the CANCERactive drug list


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