Gemcitabine (Gemzar) is an antimetabolite chemotherapy medicine used alone or with other agents to treat metastatic breast cancer. Gemcitabine may also be called gemcitabine hydrochloride.


How gemcitabine works

Gemcitabine works by interfering with the way DNA and RNA develop inside cancer cells. This medicine is similar to a normal substance inside cells, but different enough to interfere with the way cells normally divide and work.


Who gets gemcitabine

Gemcitabine is FDA approved for use in metastatic breast cancer after an anthracyline stops working or if you cannot take it for other reasons.

Gemcitabine may be used for all types of metastatic disease, including triple-negative breast cancer.


How gemcitabine is given

In metastatic breast cancer, gemcitabine is used with paclitaxel (Taxol), with carboplatin (Paraplatin) or on its own.

When given alone, gemcitabine is usually given by vein 3 weeks in a row, followed by a 1 week rest period, but schedules can vary. When given with another chemotherapy agent, it is usually given once per week for 2 weeks followed by a week off.


Side effects and things to remember

Side effects may include:

Before starting gemcitabine, be sure to tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counter medicines. You will have regular blood tests while receiving gemcitabine. You should avoid becoming pregnant and breast-feeding while you are taking it.

Your doctor, pharmacist or nurse can help you manage your side effects. You can also go to our section on Side Effects for more information.


Related resources


Stay connected

Sign up to receive emotional support, medical insight, personal stories, and more, delivered to your inbox weekly.


Reviewed and updated: August 31, 2015

Reviewed by: Laura M. Spring, MD


Was this page helpful?