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n. A particular drug used in chemotherapy.


n. an antibiotic used as an anticancer drug


Doxorubicin, sold under the trade names Adriamycin among others, is a medication used in cancer chemotherapy. It is derived by chemical semisynthesis from a bacterial species. It is an anthracycline antitumor antibiotic (note: in this context, this does not mean it is used to treat bacterial infections) closely related to the natural product daunomycin and like all anthracyclines, it works by intercalating DNA, with the most serious adverse effect being life-threatening heart damage. It is commonly used in the treatment of a wide range of cancers, including hematological malignancies (blood cancers, like leukaemia and lymphoma), many types of carcinoma (solid tumours) and soft tissue sarcomas. It is often used in combination chemotherapy as a component of various chemotherapy regimens.

Common adverse effects of doxorubicin include hair loss (seen in most of those treated with the drug), myelosuppression (a compromised ability of the body's bone marrow to produce new blood cells), nausea and vomiting (which are seen in roughly 30-90% of people treated with the drug), oral mucositis, oesophagitis, diarrhoea, skin reactions (including hand-foot syndrome) and localised swelling and redness along the vein in which the drug is delivered. Less common, yet serious reactions include hypersensitivity reactions (including anaphylaxis), radiation recall, heart damage and liver dysfunction. Some people experience red discoloration of their urine, sometimes for up to 1 to 2 days after treatment.

Doxorubicin is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most important medication needed in a basic health system. The drug is administered intravenously as a hydrochloride salt. Doxorubicin is photosensitive, and containers are often covered by an aluminum bag and/or brown wax paper to prevent light from affecting it. Doxorubicin is also available in liposome-encapsulated forms as Doxil ( pegylated form), Myocet (nonpegylated form), and Caelyx, although these forms must also be given by intravenous injection.