Taxol, or paclitaxel, is a drug used for treating certain women who have advanced breast or ovarian cancer. It is also used to treat some other cancers. Paclitaxel is a compound that is extracted from the bark of the Pacific yew tree.
In December of 1992, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Taxol for treatment of ovarian cancer that had not responded to standard chemotherapy. Subsequent clinical trials demonstrated that Taxol was also effective in treating advanced breast cancer. In April of 1994, the FDA approved Taxol for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer that did not respond to combination chemotherapy, or breast cancer that had recurred within six months after the completion of initial chemotherapy.
Taxol has now been approved for adjuvant treatment of breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes when given following a doxorubicin chemotherapy regimen.
Taxol is also used to treat Kaposi sarcoma, as well as cancers of the head and neck, bladder, esophagus, lung, cervix, and endometrium.
Taxol is given as an infusion drip into the vein.
Taxanes are a group of medications commonly used to treat breast cancer. Taxol is a taxane. Other taxanes include docetaxel (Taxotere®) and paclitaxel (Abraxane™).
Taxotere has been approved for treatment of locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Abraxane is approved for use in advanced or recurrent breast cancer. Abraxane is a new formulation of paclitaxel that can be given over thirty minutes as opposed to three hours for Taxol and there is less likelihood of an adverse reaction to the drug.
Women who have the option of taking Taxol should talk to their physician about the possible side effects, risks and benefits. Everyone experiences side effects differently. Side effects of Taxol (and taxanes) may include:
- Hair loss
- Numbness, tingling, or burning of the fingers and toes (peripheral neuropathy)
- Neutropenia - a decrease in white blood cells which may increase the risk of infections
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Aching or pain in joints and muscles
- Skin rash
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Tiredness and weakness
Talk to your doctor about what you should watch for and any side effects you notice. There are often things that can be done to control or reduce side effects.
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