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What is paclitaxel? How does it work?

Paclitaxel is the generic name of Taxol, a chemotherapeutic drug that was first approved in 1982 by the FDA for the treatment of advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. In 1999, the FDA also approved Taxol to treat early-stage breast cancer in patients who have already received chemotherapy with the drug, doxorubicin.

For each treatment with Taxol, the drug usually is given intravenously (through the vein) as an infusion for over one hour.

Inside cancer cells, paclitaxel works by interfering with the cell cycle and interfering with structures (known as microtubules, which are) involved in cell multiplication. Furthermore, paclitaxel-treated cancer cells undergo apoptosis, a programmed process in which the cancer cell destroys itself.

Initially, Paclitaxel was isolated from a Pacific yew tree. Recently, scientists discovered that the paclitaxel compound also is present in hazelnuts.

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