Taxol infusion contains the active ingredient paclitaxel, which is a type of chemotherapy medicine for cancer known as a 'taxane'.
Cancers form when some cells within the body multiply uncontrollably and abnormally. These cells then spread and destroy nearby tissues. Paclitaxel works by stopping the cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. This kills the cancer cells and stops the cancer growing.
Unfortunately, paclitaxel can also affect normal, healthy cells, particularly those that multiply quickly, such as blood cells and hair cells. The most important side effect is on the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. Paclitaxel can decrease the production of blood cells, which can leave people susceptible to infection. Regular blood tests are therefore needed to monitor the levels of blood cells.
In most chemotherapy regimens, doses are administered in courses at various intervals to allow normal cells to recover from the adverse effects of the anticancer medicines between doses. However, during this period, cancer cells will also recover and start to replicate again. Successful treatment depends on the administration of the next course of therapy before the cancer grows to its previous size and the net effect is to decrease the amount of cancer with each successive course.
Paclitaxel is licensed to treat cancer of the ovaries, breast cancer, lung cancer and a form of skin cancer that is associated with AIDs, called Kaposi's sarcoma.
Other unlicensed uses of paclitaxel should be as part of a clinical trial.
In ovarian cancer paclitaxel is licensed for cancers that are advanced and cancers that have first been treated with surgery. In these cases it is used as a first-line chemotherapy in combination with another chemotherapy medicine called cisplatin. Paclitaxel is also used to treat ovarian cancer that has spread to other areas of the body (metastasised) and which has been resistant to treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy medicines such as cisplatin.
In breast cancer, paclitaxel is licensed to treat early node-positive breast carcinoma, following anthracycline and cyclophosphamide (AC) therapy. It is also used for cancers that are advanced or have spread to other areas of the body. In these cases it is used as first-line treatment in combination with another anti-cancer medicine. This will be either a type of medicine called an anthracycline, eg doxorubicin, or a medicine called trastuzumab. Paclitaxel can also be used on its own to treat breast cancer that has spread and is resistant to anthracyclines, or for people unsuitable for anthracyclines.
Paclitaxel is licensed to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer when surgery or radiotherapy is not suitable. In this case it is used in combination with another chemotherapy medicine called cisplatin.
Paclitaxel is used when this condition is not responding to treatment with liposomal anthracycline chemotherapy, for example liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx).
This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy. If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.
Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Just because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.
The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer. For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.
You should tell your doctor what medicines you are taking before you start your chemotherapy. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines during your treatment, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, so that they can check that the combination is safe.
Vaccines may be less effective in people receiving chemotherapy. This is because chemotherapy medicines reduce the activity of the immune system and can prevent the body forming adequate antibodies. Live vaccines should be postponed until at least six months after finishing chemotherapy because they may cause infection. Live vaccines include the following: oral polio; rubella; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); BCG; chickenpox; yellow fever and oral typhoid vaccines.
There may be an increased risk of side effects if this medicine is used in combination with other medicines that can affect blood cell counts, for example other chemotherapy medicines, lapatinib, or the antipsychotic clozapine.
If your chemotherapy regimen involves having this medicine in combination with cisplatin, this medicine should always be given before the cisplatin. If given in the reverse order, the side effects of paclitaxel, in particular its effect on the bone marrow, are likely to be much increased.
If you have breast cancer that is being treated with paclitaxel and doxorubicin, the paclitaxel should be given 24 hours after the doxorubicin. If these medicines are given closer together the removal of doxorubicin from the body may be decreased, which could increase the risk of its side effects.
Protease inhibitors used to treat HIV infection, eg ritonavir, nelfinavir, may decrease the removal of paclitaxel from the body and so could potentially increase the risk of its side effects. Paclitaxel should be used with caution in people with HIV or AIDS who are taking protease inhibitors.
The following medicines could also potentially affect the removal of paclitaxel from the body:
Paclitaxel infusion is also available without a brand name, ie as the generic medicine.