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Generic NameBrand Name
doxorubicinAdriamycin PFS
doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injectionCaelyx, Myocet

How It Works

Doxorubicin interferes with how cancer cells multiply. It is used specifically to treat cancer.

Doxorubicin is an intravenous (IV) medicine. The exact dose that you receive and how often you are treated depend on your body size, the type of cancer you have, and how much of your body is affected by the cancer.

Why It Is Used

Doxorubicin slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is used to treat many types of cancer, such as breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, bone cancer, and ovarian cancer.

How Well It Works

Doxorubicin is an effective cancer treatment. But the type of cancer you have and how widespread the cancer is affect how well this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer.

Side Effects

Side effects are common with doxorubicin and can include:

  • Decreased white blood cell counts. Red blood cell counts and platelet counts can also be reduced.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Mouth sores and a sore throat.
  • Hair loss. Your hair will grow back when treatment ends.
  • Darkening of nail beds.
  • Sun sensitivity and easy sunburning. Be sure to wear hats and sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 30, and stay out of the sun as much as possible while you are being treated.
  • Pink or orange urine for about 24 hours after the medicine is given.
  • Redness and a feeling of uncomfortable burning on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

Long-term use can cause weakening of the heart muscle. Symptoms may occur months or years after treatment. Tell your health professional if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or swelling in the feet or ankles.

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

What To Think About

Doxorubicin should be given only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

Long-term use can cause weakening of the heart muscle. If you have been treated for cancer with this medicine in the past and are now seeing a new oncologist, be sure to tell your new doctor about your past treatment.

You may not be able to become pregnant after taking this medicine. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

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

Doxorubicin can damage the tissue around a vein if it leaks into the tissue while it is being given. Tell your health professional immediately if you notice any stinging or burning around the vein when you are getting this medicine.

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


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Joy Melnikow, MD, MPH - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised October 26, 2009

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.