Doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug used to treat many different cancers. It is commonly used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs and cancer therapies to decrease side effects and improve survival. This drug is being studied to treat mesothelioma.

Doxorubicin’s Success in Treating Other Cancers 

Doxorubicin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a chemotherapy drug in 1995.1 It has been used to treat many other cancers, including 

  • Bladder cancer
  • Blood cancer
  • Bone cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Lymphatic cancer
  • Other types of lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Soft tissue cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Uterine cancer

Learning from Prior Research

Doxorubicin is one of the oldest and most heavily researched chemotherapy drugs. Clinical trials of the drug have demonstrated its benefits but also its risks. Its most significant risk is damage to heart muscle tissue. Researchers and clinicians recommend that doxorubicin be used in safe combination with other chemotherapy drugs to avoid this risk and strengthen the drug’s effectiveness. 

Recent clinical trials have investigated new ways to deliver doxorubicin via

  • Drug-loaded bacterial nanocells2 
  • Heating the drug and administering it to the thoracic cavity after surgery3

 These results are promising additions to the ongoing research on safer and more effective doxorubicin delivery. 

How Doxorubicin Works

Doxorubicin works to inhibit the synthesis of a cell’s genetic material. This inhibition of DNA and RNA synthesis helps keep in check the uncontrollable proliferation of cancer cells.

Drug Administration

When doctors deliver doxorubicin, they administer it through a patient’s vein. A lower dose of the drug will be used if the patient is being treated with the coventional, non-liposomal form of the drug, or another chemotherapy drug. Doxorubicin may also be administered via hyperthermic intrathoracic chemotherapy. This delivery method involves heating the drug and administering it to the thoracic cavity after surgery.

Side Effects and Possible Complications of Doxorubicin

Common side effects of doxorubicin include 

  • Low blood counts (white blood cells, healthy red blood cells, and platelets)
  • Inflammation and ulceration of the mouth and elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Skin rash
  • Hair loss

Common and possibly life-threatening complications of doxorubicin include 

  • Metabolic abnormalities 
  • Heart muscle damage
  • Heart failure
  • Abnormal heart rate and rhythm
  • Tissue damage at the site of drug administration
  • Bone marrow suppression 
  • Blood cancer

The risk of these complications is lowered by limiting doxorubicin dosage and using doxorubicin in combination with other chemotherapy drugs and cancer therapies.4