Anthracyclines are a type of chemotherapeutic drug. Examples of anthracyclines are:
• Adriamycin (generic name, doxorubicin)
• Liposomal doxorubicin
• Ellence (generic name, epirubicin)
Inside cancer cells, anthracyclines bind to DNA and certain enzymes involved in the opening of DNA; interfere with the repair of modified DNA; and block synthesis of DNA, RNA, and proteins. Also, treatment with anthracyclines can result 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 an anthracycline drug alone or in combination with other types of chemotherapeutic drugs.
Although anthracyclines 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 anthracycline treatment, patients should be closely monitored for any heart problems.