Doxorubicin Hydrochloride (Page 3 of 8)


Doxorubicin Hydrochloride Injection, USP has been used successfully to produce regression in disseminated neoplastic conditions such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, Wilms’ tumor, neuroblastoma, soft tissue and bone sarcomas, breast carcinoma, ovarian carcinoma, transitional cell bladder carcinoma, thyroid carcinoma, gastric carcinoma, Hodgkin’s disease, malignant lymphoma and bronchogenic carcinoma in which the small cell histologic type is the most responsive compared to other cell types.

Doxorubicin is also indicated for use as a component of adjuvant therapy in women with evidence of axillary lymph node involvement following resection of primary breast cancer.


Patients should not be treated with doxorubicin if they have any of the following conditions: baseline neutrophil count <1,500 cells/mm 3 ; severe hepatic impairment; recent myocardial infarction; severe myocardial insufficiency; severe arrhythmias; previous treatment with complete cumulative doses of doxorubicin, daunorubicin, idarubicin, and/or other anthracyclines and anthracenediones; or hypersensitivity to doxorubicin, any of its excipients, or other anthracyclines or anthracenediones (see WARNINGS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).



Doxorubicin should be administered only under the supervision of qualified physicians experienced in the use of cytotoxic therapy. Patients should recover from acute toxicities of prior cytotoxic treatment (such as stomatitis, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, and generalized infections) before beginning treatment with doxorubicin. Also, initial treatment with doxorubicin should be preceded by a careful baseline assessment of blood counts; serum levels of total bilirubin, AST, and creatinine; and cardiac function as measured by left ventricular ejection function (LVEF). Patients should be carefully monitored during treatment for possible clinical complications due to myelosuppression. Supportive care may be necessary for the treatment of severe neutropenia and severe infectious complications. Monitoring for potential cardiotoxicity is also important, especially with greater cumulative exposure to doxorubicin. Doxorubicin may potentiate the toxicity of other anticancer therapies (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions).

Cardiac Function

Cardiotoxicity is a known risk of anthracycline treatment. Anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity may be manifested by early (or acute) or late (delayed) events. Early cardiotoxicity of doxorubicin consists mainly of sinus tachycardia and/or electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities such as non-specific ST-T wave changes. Tachyarrhythmias, including premature ventricular contractions and ventricular tachycardia, bradycardia, as well as atrioventricular and bundle-branch block have also been reported. These effects do not usually predict subsequent development of delayed cardiotoxicity, are rarely of clinical importance, and are generally not considered an indication for the suspension of doxorubicin treatment.

Delayed cardiotoxicity usually develops late in the course of therapy with doxorubicin or within 2 to 3 months after treatment termination, but later events, several months to years after completion of treatment, have also been reported. Delayed cardiomyopathy is manifested by a reduction in LVEF and/or signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF) such as tachycardia, dyspnea, pulmonary edema, dependent edema, cardiomegaly and hepatomegaly, oliguria, ascites, pleural effusion, and gallop rhythm. Subacute effects such as pericarditis/myocarditis have also been reported. Life-threatening CHF is the most severe form of anthracycline-induced cardiomyopathy and represents the cumulative dose-limiting toxicity of the drug.

The probability of developing impaired myocardial function, based on a combined index of signs, symptoms and decline in left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) is estimated to be 1 to 2% at a total cumulative dose of 300 mg/m 2 of doxorubicin, 3 to 5% at a dose of 400 mg/m 2 , 5 to 8% at a dose of 450 mg/m 2 and 6 to 20% at a dose of 500 mg/m 2 given in a schedule of a bolus injection once every 3 weeks. In a retrospective review, the probability of developing congestive heart failure was reported to be 5/168 (3%) at a cumulative dose of 430 mg/m 2 of doxorubicin, 8/110 (7%) at 575 mg/m 2 , and 3/14 (21%) at 728 mg/m 2. In a prospective study of doxorubicin in combination with cyclophosphamide, fluorouracil and/or vincristine in patients with breast cancer or small cell lung cancer, the probability of CHF at various cumulative doses of doxorubicin was 1.5% at 300 mg/m 2 , 4.9% at 400 mg/m 2 , 7.7% at 450 mg/m 2 and 20.5% at 500 mg/m 2. The risk of developing CHF increases rapidly with increasing total cumulative doses of doxorubicin in excess of 400 mg/m 2.

Cardiotoxicity may occur at lower doses in patients with prior mediastinal/pericardial irradiation, concomitant use of other cardiotoxic drugs, doxorubicin exposure at an early age, and advanced age. Data also suggest that pre-existing heart disease is a co-factor for increased risk of doxorubicin cardiotoxicity. In such cases, cardiac toxicity may occur at doses lower than the recommended cumulative dose of doxorubicin. Studies have suggested that concomitant administration of doxorubicin and calcium channel entry blockers or cardiotoxic drugs, especially those with long half-lives, e.g. trastuzumab, may increase the risk of doxorubicin cardiotoxicity (see PRECAUTIONS, General, DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). The total dose of doxorubicin administered to the individual patient should also take into account previous or concomitant therapy with related compounds such as daunorubicin, idarubicin and mitoxantrone. Although not formally tested, it is probable that the toxicity of doxorubicin and other anthracyclines or anthracenediones is additive. Cardiomyopathy and/or congestive heart failure may be encountered several months or years after discontinuation of doxorubicin therapy.

The risk of acute manifestations of doxorubicin cardiotoxicity in pediatric patients may be as much or lower than in adults. Pediatric patients appear to be at particular risk for developing delayed cardiac toxicity in that doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy impairs myocardial growth as pediatric patients mature, subsequently leading to possible development of congestive heart failure during early adulthood. As many as 40% of pediatric patients may have subclinical cardiac dysfunction and 5 to 10% of pediatric patients may develop congestive heart failure on long term follow-up. This late cardiac toxicity may be related to the dose of doxorubicin. The longer the length of follow-up, the greater the increase in the detection rate. Treatment of doxorubicin-induced congestive heart failure includes the use of digitalis, diuretics, after load reducers such as angiotensin I converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, low salt diet, and bed rest. Such intervention may relieve symptoms and improve the functional status of the patient.

Monitoring Cardiac Function

The risk of serious cardiac impairment may be decreased through regular monitoring of LVEF during the course of treatment with prompt discontinuation of doxorubicin at the first sign of impaired function. The preferred method for assessment of cardiac function is evaluation of LVEF measured by multi-gated radionuclide angiography (MUGA) or echocardiography (ECHO). An ECG may also be done. A baseline cardiac evaluation with a MUGA scan or an ECHO is recommended, especially in patients with risk factors for increased cardiac toxicity. Repeated MUGA or ECHO determinations of LVEF should be performed, particularly with higher, cumulative anthracycline doses. The technique used for assessment should be consistent through follow-up. In patients with risk factors, particularly prior anthracycline or anthracenedione use, the monitoring of cardiac function must be particularly strict and the risk-benefit of continuing treatment with doxorubicin in patients with impaired cardiac function must be carefully evaluated.

Endomyocardial biopsy is recognized as the most sensitive diagnostic tool to detect anthracycline-induced cardiomyopathy; however, this invasive examination is not practically performed on a routine basis. ECG changes such as dysrhythmias, a reduction of the QRS voltage, or a prolongation beyond normal limits of the systolic time interval may be indicative of anthracycline-induced cardiomyopathy, but ECG is not a sensitive or specific method for following anthracycline-related cardiotoxicity.

Pediatric patients are at increased risk for developing delayed cardiotoxicity following doxorubicin administration and therefore a follow-up cardiac evaluation is recommended periodically to monitor for this delayed cardiotoxicity.

In adults, a 10% decline in LVEF to below the lower limit of normal or an absolute LVEF of 45%, or a 20% decline in LVEF at any level is indicative of deterioration in cardiac function. In pediatric patients, deterioration in cardiac function during or after the completion of therapy with doxorubicin is indicated by a drop in fractional shortening (FS) by an absolute value of ≥ 10 percentile units or below 29%, and a decline in LVEF of 10 percentile units or an LVEF below 55%. In general, if test results indicate deterioration in cardiac function associated with doxorubicin, the benefit of continued therapy should be carefully evaluated against the risk of producing irreversible cardiac damage. Acute life-threatening arrhythmias have been reported to occur during or within a few hours after doxorubicin administration.

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