Although women are most likely to be prescribed Taxotere® due to their higher rate of breast cancer, the drug can be taken by both genders and used in patients of all ages, including pediatric cancer sufferers. The drug is administered as an intravenous (IV) infusion while under hospital or doctors’ supervision, and is one of the most popular breast cancer treatments in the nation.
How Does Taxotere Work?
Taxotere is a prescription chemotherapy agent approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996. It has been used to treat a variety of cancers, most commonly prostate, stomach, breast, non-small cell lung cancer, and cancers located in the head and neck. Taxotere was created and marketed by Sanofi-Aventis, but is also available under the brand-name Docefrez or in its generic form, docetaxel. These medications belong to a class of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes, which are made from plant alkaloids.
Cancer cells cause harm because they replicate over and over again, unlike normal cells, which are programmed to stop dividing when similar cells are already present in the body. Taxotere, which is made from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree, disrupts the DNA inside the cancer cells and prevents them from dividing. If a cell cannot divide to replicate itself, it dies.
Taxotere Drug Use Warnings and Complications
Some patients are more suited to taking Taxotere than others. Those who have had reactions to chemotherapy drugs that contain platinum (such as cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin) or are allergic to medicines that contain polysorbate 80 should not take Taxotere. The risk of death when taking Taxotere® is highest for patients who have liver disease, have non-small cell lung cancer, or are taking extremely high doses of the drug.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued many warnings about the dangers of taking Taxotere, including:
- Permanent hair loss. Some women have reported long-term hair loss after taking Taxotere. This condition, known as alopecia, can last anywhere from weeks to years after treatment, and may even be permanent in some cases.
- Eye disorders. Several patients who have been treated with taxanes have suffered cystoid macular edema (CME), a condition that causes fluid buildup in the eyes that results in clouded or distorted vision. If a patient suffers vision loss or other eye problems while taking Taxotere, he or she should consult an ophthalmologist and explore alternative chemotherapy treatments if CME is diagnosed.
- Respiratory problems. The FDA has received reports of respiratory ailments in patients taking Taxotere, including difficulty breathing, pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (severe inflammation in the lungs), lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and pulmonary edema.
- Intoxication. In 2014, the FDA issued a safety warning to patients taking docetaxel to alert them to possible symptoms of intoxication during and after treatment. Taxotere contains ethanol (alcohol), making it a danger to those with liver problems or who are restricted or prohibited from using alcohol. Since the medication can impact a patient’s central nervous system, patients taking docetaxel should not drive themselves home or operate machinery for up to two hours after infusion.
Although high doses of Taxotere may produce a greater number of complications, most of the side effects only last as long as treatment continues. The exception is permanent alopecia, which may last months or even years after the completion of treatment.