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Taxol (Onxal, Paclitaxel)

Warning: There have been several warnings issued with regards to this particular medication. One of the most severe possibilities is the significant decrease of white blood cells. When white blood cells are too low, the body is more susceptible to infection and is not fully able to fight infection as it normally would. Throughout Taxol treatment, it is standard for doctors to test the white blood cell count frequently. If the count drops below a safe amount, the administration of this medication should be interrupted. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any signs of infection during your treatment, including a fever, chills, persistent cough or sore throat, or painful, difficult, or frequent urination.

Although it is uncommon, this medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. If you are allergic to this drug, you should not receive it again. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction in connection with the use of this medication. These symptoms may be swelling, itching, a rash, dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain, among other things.

Indications:  This is an injectable medication that is used during chemotherapy and whose purpose is to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. It can be used alone or along with other medications, as prescribed by a physician. Taxol is a name brand of the drug paclitaxel. While it is most commonly used to treat breast cancer that has not responded to treatment or that has come back after treatment, this medication can also be used to treat various other types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the head or neck, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, bladder cancer, cancer of the esophagus, or Kaposi’s sarcoma, among others.

Dosage:  As with other types of chemotherapy medications, Taxol is to be administered intraveneously under the supervision of a doctor who is licensed and experienced in the treatment of cancer through chemotherapy.

It is generally given once every two to three weeks, depending on the type and severity of the cancer.

Contraindications: This medication should not be used if you have a low white blood cell count.

Taxol or is not recommended under the following conditions:    

  • pregnancy   
  • breast-feeding  
  • allergy to Taxol or one of its components  
  • Allergy to polyethoxylated castor oil.  

Mechanism of action (MOA): Taxol belongs to antineoplastics, a class of chemotherapy drugs that works by stabilizing the mitotic spindle (also called nuclear spindle, formation of protein fibers in the cytoplasm of a cell during cell division), which slows or stops the growth of cancer cells.  

 

Interactions: Taxol has several interactions with other medications including: medicines that affect the production of white blood cells (for example azathioprine and trimethoprim), medicines that affect the way that medicines are removed from the body (such as azole antifungals and some anti-seizure medications). Because this medicine can affect the way that the liver functions, it also may affect the way that these medications work. Make sure to notify your doctor of all medications that you take, especially those containing drugs that may cause drowsiness.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any of these medications:    

  • cyclosporine
  • dexamethasone
  • diltiazem
  • estrogens
  • ketoconazole
  • montelukast
  • quercetin
  • quinidine
  • retinoic acid
  • testosterone
  • verapamil
  • Protease inhibitors 

Side effects:  In addition to attacking cancer cells, Taxol may interfere with certain normal cells, causing a number of side effects in most patients:  

  • hair loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • taste change
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • nail or/and skin discoloration
  • tingling in the hands or toes
  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • sleep disorders
  • Mouth blistering 

If the side effects above persist for weeks, contact your oncologist. In addition, contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:  

  •  dizziness  
  •  shortness of breath  
  •  severe exhaustion  
  •  facial flushing  
  •  chest pain   
  •  persistent diarrhea or constipation  
  •  unusual bruising or bleeding  
  •  pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site  
  •  Infection/allergy signs: skin rash, fever, chills, cough, sore throat, etc.  
  •   Difficulty swallowing.