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Generic NameBrand Name
paclitaxelAbraxane, Taxol

How It Works

Paclitaxel interferes with the cancer cell's ability to reproduce. Paclitaxel is an intravenous (IV) medicine. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule of administering this medicine.

Why It Is Used

Paclitaxel slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is commonly used to treat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, bladder cancer, and non–small cell lung cancer.

How Well It Works

Paclitaxel is an effective anti-tumour medicine. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

Possible serious side effects of paclitaxel include:

  • Allergic reactions. Signs of allergic reaction can include trouble breathing; swelling or closing of the throat; swollen face, tongue, or lips; or hives.
  • Feeling extremely tired, bruising or bleeding easily, or signs of infection such as a fever or chills. These symptoms may mean that the medicine caused the numbers of your white or red blood cells or platelets to drop.
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes or belly pain. This may mean the medicine has damaged your liver.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy).
  • A drop in the heart rate (bradycardia) or blood pressure (hypotension). Your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored while you are receiving this medicine.

Less serious side effects are more common and may include:

  • Joint pain.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis) and a sore throat.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Hair loss. This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.

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

What To Think About

Paclitaxel should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

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

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

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


Other Works Consulted

  • Abramowicz M (2003). Treatment guidelines: Drugs of choice for cancer. Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 1(7): 41–52.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised July 19, 2010

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