Epirubicin hydrochloride is the generic name for the brand name drug, Ellence, which is an example of a chemotherapeutic drug in the class of drugs called anthracyclines.
Inside cancer cells, epirubicin 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, epirubicin 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 epirubicin alone or in combination with other types of chemotherapeutic drugs. For example, some women with breast cancer of Stage IIIB and higher or recurrent breast cancer receive adjuvant treatment with epirubicin and the vinca alkaloid, vinorelbine.
Although anthracyclines (such as epirubicin) 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 epirubicin typically are administered to patients. Moreover, use of the cardioprotective drug, Dexrazoxane, in patients receiving epirubicin may reduce the risk of cardiotoxic side effects. Nevertheless, during epirubicin treatment, patients should be closely monitored for any heart problems.