Liposomal doxorubicin is a relatively new formulation (i.e., physical and chemical preparation) of doxorubicin. In liposomal doxorubicin, the doxorubicin drug is packaged inside a liposome (a fat-like material). The liposomal packaging of the doxorubicin allows the doxorubicin drug to better penetrate into and remain longer in tumors.
Both liposomal doxorubicin and doxorubicin are examples of a class of chemotherapeutic drugs called anthracyclines.
Inside cancer cells, doxorubicin 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, doxorubicin treatment results in the production of toxic substances within the cancer cells.
Some women with breast cancer of Stage IIIB and higher or recurrent disease receive adjuvant (i.e., post-surgical) treatment with liposomal doxorubicin alone or in combination with other types of chemotherapeutic drugs.
Although anthracycline drugs (such as doxorubicin) can be effective in the treatment of breast cancer, anthracyclines pose a risk of cardiotoxic side effects (i.e., severe heart problems). Therefore, limited doses of anthracyclines typically are administered to patients. Nevertheless, during treatment with an anthracycline drug, patients should be closely monitored for any heart problems.