Doxorubicin Hydrochloride (Page 4 of 8)

Hematologic Toxicity

As with other cytotoxic agents, doxorubicin may produce myelosuppression. Myelosuppression requires careful monitoring. Total and differential WBC, red blood cell (RBC), and platelet counts should be assessed before and during each cycle of therapy with doxorubicin. A dose-dependent, reversible leukopenia and/or granulocytopenia (neutropenia) are the predominant manifestations of doxorubicin hematologic toxicity and is the most common acute dose-limiting toxicities of this drug. With the recommended dose schedule, leukopenia is usually transient, reaching its nadir 10 to 14 days after treatment with recovery usually occurring by the 21st day. Thrombocytopenia and anemia may also occur. Clinical consequences of severe myelosuppression include fever, infections, sepsis/septicemia, septic shock, hemorrhage, tissue hypoxia, or death.

Secondary Leukemia

The occurrence of secondary AML or MDS has been reported most commonly in patients treated with chemotherapy regimens containing anthracyclines (including doxorubicin) and DNA-damaging antineoplastic agents, in combination with radiotherapy, when patients have been heavily pretreated with cytotoxic drugs, or when doses of anthracyclines have been escalated. Such cases generally have a 1 to 3 year latency period. The rate of developing secondary AML or MDS has been estimated in an analysis of 8,563 patients with early breast cancer treated in 6 studies conducted by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), including NSABP B-15. Patients in these studies received standard doses of doxorubicin and standard or escalated doses of cyclophosphamide (AC) adjuvant chemotherapy and were followed for 61,810 patient years. Among 4,483 such patients who received conventional doses of AC, 11 cases of AML or MDS were identified, for an incidence of 0.32 cases per 1,000 patient years (95% Cl, 0.16 to 0.57) and a cumulative incidence at 5 years of 0.21% (95% Cl, 0.11 to 0.41%). In another analysis of 1,474 patients with breast cancer who received adjuvant treatment with doxorubicin-containing regimens in clinical trials conducted at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the incidence was estimated at 1.5% at 10 years. In both experiences, patients who received regimens with higher cyclophosphamide dosages, who received radiotherapy, or who were aged 50 or older had an increased risk of secondary AML or MDS.

Pediatric patients are also at risk of developing secondary AML.

Effects at Site of Injection

Phlebosclerosis may result from an injection into a small vessel or from repeated injections into the same vein. Following the recommended administration procedures may minimize the risk of phlebitis/thrombophlebitis at the injection site (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Instruction for Use/Handling).


On intravenous administration of doxorubicin, extravasation may occur with or without an accompanying stinging or burning sensation, even if blood returns well on aspiration of the infusion needle. If any signs or symptoms of extravasation have occurred, the injection or infusion should be immediately terminated and restarted in another vein (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Hepatic Impairment

Since metabolism and excretion of doxorubicin occurs predominantly by the hepatobiliary route, toxicity of recommended doses of doxorubicin can be enhanced by hepatic impairment; therefore, prior to individual dosing, evaluation of hepatic function is recommended using conventional laboratory tests such as SGOT, SGPT, alkaline phosphatase, and bilirubin (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Immunosuppressant Effects/Increased Susceptibility to Infections

Administration of live or live attenuated vaccines in patients immunocompromised by chemotherapeutic agents including doxorubicin, may result in serious or fatal infections. Vaccination with a live vaccine should be avoided in patients receiving doxorubicin. Killed or inactivated vaccines may be administered; however, the response to such vaccines may be diminished.

Pregnancy Category D

Doxorubicin can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Doxorubicin was teratogenic and embryotoxic at doses of 0.8 mg/kg/day (about 1/13 the recommended human dose on a body surface area basis) when administered during the period of organogenesis in rats. Teratogenicity and embryotoxicity were also seen using discrete periods of treatment. The most susceptible was the 6- to 9-day gestation period at doses of 1.25 mg/kg/day and greater. Characteristic malformations included esophageal and intestinal atresia, tracheoesophageal fistula, hypoplasia of the urinary bladder and cardiovascular anomalies. Doxorubicin was embryotoxic (increase in embryofetal deaths) and abortifacient at 0.4 mg/kg/day (about 1/14 the recommended human dose on a body surface area basis) in rabbits when administered during the period of organogenesis.

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. If doxorubicin is to be used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant during therapy, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus. Women of childbearing age should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant.



Doxorubicin is not an anti-microbial agent. Doxorubicin is emetigenic. Antiemetics may reduce nausea and vomiting; prophylactic use of antiemetics should be considered before administration of doxorubicin, particularly when given in conjunction with other emetigenic drugs. Doxorubicin should not be administered in combination with other cardiotoxic agents unless the patient’s cardiac function is closely monitored. Patients receiving doxorubicin after stopping treatment with other cardiotoxic agents, especially those with long half-lives such as trastuzumab, may also be at an increased risk of developing cardiotoxicity. Physicians should avoid doxorubicin-based therapy for up to 24 weeks after stopping trastuzumab when possible. If doxorubicin used before this time, careful monitoring of cardiac function is recommended (see WARNINGS, DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Information for Patients

Patients should be informed of the expected adverse effects of doxorubicin, including gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomatitis) and potential neutropenic complications. Patients should consult their physician if vomiting, dehydration, fever, evidence of infection, symptoms of CHF, or injection-site pain occurs following therapy with doxorubicin. Patients should be informed that they will almost certainly develop alopecia. Patients should be advised that their urine may appear red for 1 to 2 days after administration of doxorubicin and that they should not be alarmed. Patients should understand that there is a risk of irreversible myocardial damage associated with treatment with doxorubicin, as well as a risk of treatment-related leukemia. Because doxorubicin may induce chromosomal damage in sperm, men undergoing treatment with doxorubicin should use effective contraceptive methods. Women treated with doxorubicin may develop irreversible amenorrhea, or premature menopause.

Drug Interactions

Doxorubicin is extensively metabolized by the liver. Changes in hepatic function induced by concomitant therapies may affect doxorubicin metabolism, pharmacokinetics, therapeutic efficacy, and/or toxicity. Toxicities associated with doxorubicin, especially hematologic and gastrointestinal events, may be increased when doxorubicin is used in combination with other cytotoxic drugs.


There have been a number of reports in the literature that describe an increase in cardiotoxicity when doxorubicin is co-administered with paclitaxel. Two published studies report that initial administration of paclitaxel infused over 24 hours followed by doxorubicin administered over 48 hours resulted in a significant decrease in doxorubicin clearance with more profound neutropenic and stomatitis episodes than the reverse sequence of administration.


In a published study, progesterone was given intravenously to patients with advanced malignancies (ECOG PS< 2) at high doses (up to 10 g over 24 hours) concomitantly with a fixed doxorubicin dose (60 mg/m 2) via bolus injection. Enhanced doxorubicin-induced neutropenia and thrombocytopenia were observed.


A study of the effects of verapamil on the acute toxicity of doxorubicin in mice revealed higher initial peak concentrations of doxorubicin in the heart with a higher incidence and severity of degenerative changes in cardiac tissue resulting in a shorter survival.


The addition of cyclosporine to doxorubicin may result in increases in AUC for both doxorubicin and doxorubicinol possibly due to a decrease in clearance of parent drug and a decrease in metabolism of doxorubicinol. Literature reports suggest that adding cyclosporine to doxorubicin results in more profound and prolonged hematologic toxicity than doxorubicin alone. Coma and/or seizures have also been described.


In a clinical study of women with metastatic breast cancer, the concurrent use of the cardioprotectant, dexrazoxane, with the initiation of a regimen of fluorouracil, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide (FAC) was associated with a lower tumor response rate. Later initiation of dexrazoxane (after administration of a cumulative doxorubicin dose of 300 mg/m 2 of doxorubicin had been given as a component of FAC) was not associated with a reduction in chemotherapy activity. Dexrazoxane is only indicated for use in women with metastatic breast cancer who have received a cumulative doxorubicin dose of 300 mg/m 2 and are continuing with doxorubicin therapy.


Necrotizing colitis manifested by typhlitis (cecal inflammation), bloody stools and severe and sometimes fatal infections have been associated with a combination of doxorubicin given by intravenous push daily for 3 days and cytarabine given by continuous infusion daily for 7 or more days.


In clinical studies, both an increase of 21% and 47% and no change in the AUC of doxorubicin were observed with concomitant treatment with sorafenib 400 mg twice daily. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown. Cyclophosphamide

The addition of cyclophosphamide to doxorubicin treatment does not affect exposure to doxorubicin, but may result in an increase in exposure to doxorubicinol, a metabolite. Doxorubicinol only has 5% of the cytotoxic activity of doxorubicin. Concurrent treatment with doxorubicin has been reported to exacerbate cyclophosphamide-induced hemorrhagic cystitis. Acute myeloid leukemia has been reported as a second malignancy after treatment with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide.

Literature reports have also described the following drug interactions

Phenobarbital increases the elimination of doxorubicin; phenytoin levels may be decreased by doxorubicin; streptozocin (Zanosar ®) may inhibit hepatic metabolism of doxorubicin; saquinavir in combination with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide increased mucosal toxicity in patients with HIV-associated non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; and administration of live vaccines to immunosuppressed patients including those undergoing cytotoxic chemotherapy may be hazardous (see WARNINGS).

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