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Dose limiting toxicities of therapy are myelosuppression and cardiotoxicity. Other reactions reported are:
Cardiotoxicity - (See WARNINGS.)
Cutaneous- Reversible complete alopecia occurs in most cases. Hyperpigmentation of nailbeds and dermal creases, primarily in pediatric patients, and onycholysis have been reported in a few cases. Radiation recall reaction has occurred with doxorubicin administration. Rash, itching, or photosensitivity may occur.
Gastrointestinal-Acute nausea and vomiting occurs frequently and may be severe. This may be alleviated by antiemetic therapy. Mucositis (stomatitis and esophagitis) may occur within 5 to 10 of beginning therapy, and most patients recover from this adverse event within another 5 to 10 days. The effect may be severe leading to ulceration and represents a site of origin for severe infections. The dosage regimen consisting of administration of doxorubicin on three successive days results in greater incidence and severity of mucositis. Ulceration and necrosis of the colon, especially the cecum, may occur leading to bleeding or severe infections which can be fatal. This reaction has been reported in patients with acute non-lymphocytic leukemia treated with a 3-day course of doxorubicin combined with cytarabine. Anorexia, abdominal pain, dehydration, diarrhea, and hyperpigmentation of the oral mucosa have been occasionally reported.
Hematologic - (See WARNINGS.)
Neurological- Peripheral neurotoxicity in the form of local-regional sensory and/or motor disturbances have been reported in patients treated intra-arterially with doxorubicin, mostly in combination with cisplatin. Animal studies have demonstrated seizures and coma in rodents and dogs treated with intra-carotid doxorubicin. Seizures and coma have been reported in patients treated with doxorubicin in combination with cisplatin or vincristine.
Other - Malaise/asthenia have been reported.
Adverse Reactions in Patients with Early Breast Cancer Receiving Doxorubicin-Containing Adjuvant Therapy: Safety data were collected from approximately 2300 women who participated in a randomized, open-label trial (NSABP B-15) evaluating the use of AC versus CMF in the treatment of early breast cancer involving axillary lymph nodes. In the safety analysis, the follow-up data from all patients receiving AC were combined (N=1492 evaluable patients) and compared with data from patients receiving conventional CMF (i.e., oral cyclophosphamide; N=739 evaluable patients). The most relevant adverse events reported in this study are provided in Table 2.
Table 2. Relevant Adverse Events in Patients with Early Breast
Cancer Involving Axillary Lymph Nodes
|Mean number of cycles||3.8||5.5|
|Adverse events, % of patients|
|Grade 3 (1,000-1,999 /mm3)||3.4||9.4|
|Grade 4 (<1000 /mm3)||0.3||0.3|
|Grade 3 (25,000-49,999 /mm3)||0||0.3|
|Grade 4 (<25,000 /mm3)||0.1||0|
|Nausea and vomiting|
|Vomiting ≤ 12 hours||34.4||25.2|
|Vomiting >12 hours||36.8||12.0|
|* Includes pooled data from patients who received either AC alone for 4 cycles, or who were treated with AC for 4 cycles followed by 3 cycles of CMF|
Read the Adriamycin PFS (doxorubicin hydrochloride) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects
Doxorubicin is extensively metabolized by the liver. Changes in hepatic function induced by concomitant therapies may affect doxorubicin metabolism, pharmacokinetics, therapeutic efficacy, and/or toxicity. Toxicities associated with doxorubicin, especially hematologic and gastrointestinal events, may be increased when doxorubicin is used in combination with other cytotoxic drugs.
Paclitaxel: There have been a number of reports in the literature that describe an increase in cardiotoxicity when doxorubicin is co-administered with paclitaxel. Two published studies report that initial administration of paclitaxel infused over 24 hours followed by doxorubicin administered over 48 hours resulted in a significant decrease in doxorubicin clearance with more profound neutropenic and stomatitis episodes than the reverse sequence of administration.
Progesterone: In a published study, progesterone was given intravenously to patients with advanced malignancies (ECOG PS<2) at high doses (up to 10 g over 24 hours) concomitantly with a fixed doxorubicin dose (60 mg/m2) via bolus injection. Enhanced doxorubicin-induced neutropenia and thrombocytopenia were observed.
Verapamil: A study of the effects of verapamil on the acute toxicity of doxorubicin in mice revealed higher initial peak concentrations of doxorubicin in the heart with a higher incidence and severity of degenerative changes in cardiac tissue resulting in a shorter survival.
Cyclosporine: The addition of cyclosporine to doxorubicin may result in increases in AUC for both doxorubicin and doxorubicinol possibly due to a decrease in clearance of parent drug and a decrease in metabolism of doxorubicinol. Literature reports suggest that adding cyclosporine to doxorubicin results in more profound and prolonged hematologic toxicity than doxorubicin alone. Coma and/or seizures have also been described.
Dexrazoxane: In a clinical study of women with metastatic breast cancer, the concurrent use of the cardioprotectant, dexrazoxane, with the initiation of a regimen of fluorouracil, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide (FAC) was associated with a lower tumor response rate. Later initiation of dexrazoxane (after administration of a cumulative doxorubicin dose of 300 mg/m2 of doxorubicin had been given as a component of FAC) was not associated with a reduction in chemotherapy activity. Dexrazoxane is only indicated for use in women with metastatic breast cancer who have received a cumulative doxorubicin dose of 300 mg/m2 and are continuing with doxorubicin therapy.
Cytarabine: Necrotizing colitis manifested by typhlitis (cecal inflammation), bloody stools and severe and sometimes fatal infections have been associated with a combination of doxorubicin given by intravenous push daily for 3 days and cytarabine given by continuous infusion daily for 7 or more days.
Cyclophosphamide: The addition of cyclophosphamide to doxorubicin treatment does not affect exposure to doxorubicin, but may result in an increase in exposure to doxorubicinol, a metabolite. Doxorubicinol only has 5% of the cytotoxic activity of doxorubicin. Concurrent treatment with doxorubicin has been reported to exacerbate cyclophosphamide-induced hemorrhagic cystitis. Acute myeloid leukemia has been reported as a second malignancy after treatment with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide.
Literature reports have also described the following drug interactions: Phenobarbital increases the elimination of doxorubicin; phenytoin levels may be decreased by doxorubicin; streptozocin (Zanosar®) may inhibit hepatic metabolism of doxorubicin; saquinavir in combination with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide increased mucosal toxicity in patients with HIV-associated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; and administration of live vaccines to immunosuppressed patients including those undergoing cytotoxic chemotherapy may be hazardous.
Initial treatment with doxorubicin requires observation of the patient and periodic monitoring of complete blood counts, hepatic function tests, and left ventricular ejection fraction. (See WARNINGS). Abnormalities of hepatic function tests may occur. Like other cytotoxic drugs, doxorubicin may induce "tumor lysis syndrome" and hyperuricemia in patients with rapidly growing tumors. Blood uric acid levels, potassium, calcium, phosphate, and creatinine should be evaluated after initial treatment. Hydration, urine alkalinization, and prophylaxis with allopurinol to prevent hyperuricemia may minimize potential complications of tumor-lysis syndrome.
Read the Adriamycin PFS Drug Interactions Center for a complete guide to possible interactions
Last reviewed on RxList: 9/11/2008
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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