Docetaxel

Updated 
August 31, 2015
Reviewed By: 

Docetaxelinfo-icon (Taxotereinfo-icon) is a type of human-made taxaneinfo-icon chemotherapyinfo-icon medicineinfo-icon. It was first made from yew tree needles. Docetaxel is used with other medicines to treat some types of breast cancer.

How Docetaxel Works

Docetaxelinfo-icon works by damaging the structure or the “skeleton” that supports cancer cells. This stops the cancer cells from growing and dividing.

Who Gets Docetaxel

Docetaxelinfo-icon may be used in chemotherapyinfo-icon treatment regimens for most types of invasive breast cancerinfo-icon, including triple-negative breast cancer. It can be used with targeted therapy, such as trastuzumabinfo-icon (Herceptininfo-icon), in treating HER2-positive breast cancers.

It can also be given with the chemotherapy medicines doxorubicininfo-icon (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamideinfo-icon (Cytoxaninfo-icon) after surgeryinfo-icon as adjuvant treatment or as neoadjuvant (before surgery) treatment for breast cancers that require chemotherapy. 

Docetaxel is sometimes given alone for metastatic breast cancer.

How Docetaxel Is Given

Docetaxelinfo-icon is often given in combination to help treat breast cancer and prevent recurrenceinfo-icon. Combinations include:

Docetaxel is given by veininfo-icon, usually in several cycles, with a day (or days) of treatment followed by a period of “off” days. The exact schedule depends on the doseinfo-icon and combination of medicines.

For treatment of early-stage breast cancerinfo-icon that requires chemotherapyinfo-icon after surgeryinfo-icon, docetaxel is usually given with other medicines every 3 weeks for six cycles.

In locally advanced and metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer, docetaxel is usually given every 3 weeks. But it can also be given in low doses weekly, often with fewer side effects. It may be given as long as it keeps the cancer from growing.

Side Effects and Things to Remember

Docetaxelinfo-icon can cause an allergic reaction, so your doctor may give you medicineinfo-icon beforehand to prevent it. Usually you will start taking these medicines the day before each treatment and continue for 3 days. In some cases, you get the medicines with your docetaxel treatment instead.

Be sure to get emergency medical help if you have any signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives or red skin rash; difficulty breathing; faintness; or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Other side effects of docetaxel may include:

Because docetaxel can decrease your blood cellinfo-icon counts, called bone marrow suppression, your doctors will test your blood counts regularly. The blood cell countinfo-icon changes can include a decrease in

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen in your body to help give you energy
  • White blood cells, which fight infectioninfo-icon in your body
  • Platelets, which help clot the blood to stop bleeding

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.

Before starting docetaxel, tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the counter-medicines, as well as any existing or previous health problems.

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Article August 31, 2015
Article August 31, 2015