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Paclitaxel is used in the treatment of breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

How it works

Paclitaxel blocks replication of genetic material (DNA) in the cancer cells. Thus it stops the growth and multiplication of cancer cells.

Common side effects

Nausea, Vomiting, Weakness, Rash, Reduced blood platelets, Upper respiratory tract infection, Urinary tract infection, Bleeding, Anemia, Decreased blood pressure, Flushing (sense of warmth in the face, ears, neck and trunk), Peripheral neuropathy (tingling and numbness of feet and hand), Hair loss, Diarrhoea, Decreased white blood cell count (neutrophils)

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Expert advice

  • Inform your doctor if you have a history of heart problems, liver problems or low production of blood cells from the bone marrow (myelosupression).
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you observe allergic reactions such as shortness of breath, irregular heart-beats, dizziness, swelling of face or rash; tingling, burning or numbness in finger or toes.
  • Inform your doctor if you are taking radiation therapy of the lungs or if you have Kaposi’s sarcoma with a sore or inflamed mouth.
  • Women on this therapy should use two methods of contraception and 3 months after it.
  • Men who are going to use this therapy should not father a child and 3 months post it. They should also seek guidance and counselling on sperm conservation before taking this therapy.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery as paclitaxel may cause some dizziness, nausea or tiredness.
  • Paclitaxel is not recommended for children below 18 years.
  • Ensure that you receive anti-allergic medication before the therapy to prevent any allergic response.

Frequently asked questions



Is paclitaxel generic/ taxane/ FDA approved/cytotoxic?
Yes, paclitaxel is generic/ taxane/ FDA approved/ cytotoxic


Is paclitaxel a vesicant?
Paclitaxel is usually a vesicant (irritant)


Is paclitaxel light sensitive/ hydrophobic/ cardiotoxic?
Yes, paclitaxel is light sensitive/ hydrophobic/ cardiotoxic

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Does paclitaxel cause hair loss?
Yes, paclitaxel may cause hair loss as a side effect. Please inform your doctor about any side effect while you are on paclitaxel therapy


What is paclitaxel derived from?
Paclitaxel is derived from bark of the Pacific yew, Taxus brevifolia.

Content on this page was last updated on 16 February, 2017, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)