Docetaxel chemotherapy is commonly used to treat breast cancer, prostate cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. It is also used to treat non-small cell lung cancer, advanced stomach cancer, head and neck cancer. Docetaxel is a yellowish brown liquid that becomes a clear solution when diluted.
This drug is given intravenously and the infusion usually takes up to 1 hour. Normally, steroids are recommended a day prior to the chemotherapy to reduce the side effects depending on the type and stage of the cancer. They are normally recommended for three days.
Taxotere is a trade name for docetaxel. This drug is classified as a plant alkaloid, an anti microtubule agent and under the group taxane.
Use of Docetaxel in Breast Cancer Treatment
The treatment for breast cancer with docetaxel is combined with another drug called capecitabine. You would be given anti sickness tablets prior to docetaxel infusion.
After the infusion of docetaxel intravenously for about an hour, capecitabine is given in the form of tablets to be taken after morning meals. These are usually given for two weeks with a break after that. This finishes the first cycle. Like this, 4-6 cycles are done that complete the chemotherapy for breast cancer.
The dose of the drug depends on the type and stage of the cancer and the overall health of the patient.
Side Effects of Docetaxel
Some of the side effects are diarrhea, bruising, anemia, increased susceptibility to infections, nausea and vomiting, mouth ulcers, allergic reactions, fatigue, heir loss, fluid retention, loss of appetite, etc.
Docetaxel is a plant alkaloid. These are made from plants. Vinca alkaloids are made from the periwinkle plant i.e. catharanthus rosea. The taxanes are made from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree or Taxus species. The vinca alkaloids and taxanes work as anti microtubule agents.
The podophyllotoxins are derived from the May apple plant. Camptothecan analogs are derived from the Asian happy tree or Camptotheca acuminata. Podophyllotoxins and Camptothecan analogs are topoisomerase inhibitors. The plant alkaloids are cell cycle specific i.e. they attack the cancer cells during various phases of cell division.
- Vinca alkaloids: Vincristine, Vinblastine and Vinorelbine
- Taxanes: Paclitaxel and Docetaxel
- Podophyllotoxins: Etoposide and Tenoposide
- Camptothecan analogs: Irinotecan and Topotecan
Precautions for Docetaxel Chemotherapy
- Inform your doctor regarding all the prior and current medications you are taking including OTC medications, herbal medicines, supplements and any alternative therapies.
- Do not take aspirin medications without consulting your doctor.
- Do not get yourself immunized against a particular disease without your doctor’s consultation.
- Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to be pregnant as docetaxel is harmful for fetal development.
- Do not conceive a child until you finish with the treatment. Discuss with your doctor to have a safe pregnancy post treatment.
- Do not breast-feed until you finish this treatment.
Anti microtubule agents like docetaxel inhibit the microtubule structures inside the cell. Microtubules play a role in cell division and replication. Inhibiting the microtubules causes the cells to die.
Docetaxel chemotherapy is under clinical trials for small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, soft tissue sarcoma and melanoma. Successful clinical trials would be a ray of hope for innumerable cancer patients.