AC: Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide

Updated 
August 31, 2015

AC (Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamideinfo-icon) is a common chemotherapyinfo-icon regimeninfo-icon usually given for localizedinfo-icon breast cancers.

It is a combination of two chemotherapy medicines:

Doxorubicininfo-icon is a type of chemotherapy medicineinfo-icon called an anthracycline. Cyclophosphamide is a type of chemotherapy medicine called an alkylating agent.

How AC Works

Both doxorubicininfo-icon and cyclophosphamideinfo-icon damage the DNA inside cancer cells so they can’t divide, which causes them to die. Doxorubicin stops damaged cancer cells from continuing to grow, while cyclophosphamide stops cancer cells from reproducing. 

The medicines attack the cancer cells at different stages of their growth:

  • Doxorubicin works at any point in the cellinfo-icon cycle.
  • Cyclophosphamide works when the cells are in their resting phase (not dividing).

Who Gets AC

AC is used to early-stage breast cancerinfo-icon. It is a very common combination when you need chemotherapyinfo-icon, whether or not the cancer is in the lymphinfo-icon nodes. It is often but not always followed by paclitaxelinfo-icon (Taxolinfo-icon) or docetaxelinfo-icon (Taxotereinfo-icon), to create a combination called ACT.

AC may also be given to people with

  • a local recurrenceinfo-icon, breast cancer that has returned at or near the place they received treatment
  • a regionalinfo-icon recurrence, breast cancer that has come back in nearby lymph nodes
  • metastatic breast cancer, which has traveled from the breast or lymph nodes to distant areas of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs or brain.

You and your doctor will discuss the best chemotherapy treatment for your situation.

How AC Is Given

AC can be given after surgeryinfo-icon as an adjuvant therapyinfo-icon, or before as a neoadjuvant therapyinfo-icon.

The medicines are usually given by veininfo-icon on the same day, followed by a rest period of 2 or 3 weeks. When given every 2 weeks, your doctor may call this schedule doseinfo-icon-dense AC chemotherapyinfo-icon. This cycle is usually repeated 4 to 6 times over 3 to 5 months.

Side Effects and Things to Remember

Different medicines have different side effects. You may not have every side effectinfo-icon related to each medicineinfo-icon of the combination therapyinfo-icon. Common side effects of AC include:

Less common side effects include:

Before starting AC tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counterinfo-icon medicines, to make sure they won’t interfere with your chemotherapy treatment.

You should avoid becoming pregnant while you are receiving AC. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant while undergoing treatment.

Talk to your doctor, pharmacistinfo-icon or nurseinfo-icon about all your side effects so that they can help you manage them. You can also go to our section on Side Effects for more information.

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