Adriamycin, the brand-name of the chemotherapeutic drug, doxorubicin, is an example of a class of chemotherapeutic drugs called anthracyclines. Inside cancer cells, Adriamycin binds to DNA and certain enzymes involved in the opening of DNA; interferes with the repair of modified DNA; and blocks synthesis of DNA, RNA, and proteins. Furthermore, Adriamycin treatment results in the production of toxic substances within the cancer cells.
Some women with breast cancer of Stage I and higher receive adjuvant (i.e., post-surgical) treatment with Adriamycin alone or in combination with other types of chemotherapeutic drugs. For example, some women with breast cancer of Stage IIIC and higher or recurrent breast cancer receive the combination of Adriamycin and a taxane (paclitaxel or docetaxel).
Although Adriamycin can be effective in the treatment of breast cancer, Adriamycin poses a risk of cardiotoxic side effects (i.e., severe heart problems). Therefore, limited doses of Adriamycin typically are administered to patients. Moreover, use of the cardioprotective drug, dexrazoxane, in patients receiving Adriamycin reduces the risk of cardiotoxicity. Nevertheless, during Adriamycin treatment, patients should be closely monitored for any heart problems.