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Paclitaxel is used alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, advanced non-small cell lung cancer, cancer of pancreas, and AIDS related Kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of cancer that develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels). This can also be used to treat patients who may be non-responsive to anthracycline based therapies.

How it works

Paclitaxel belongs to a class of medication called anti microtubule agents. It works by stopping growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Common side effects

Nausea, Pain, Diarrhoea, Abdominal pain, Hair loss, Injection site redness, Injection site swelling, Muscle pain, Joint pain, Skin redness, Dry mouth, Sore mouth, Vomiting, Weakness


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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


Q. Is paclitaxel generic/ taxane/ FDA approved/cytotoxic?
Yes, paclitaxel is generic/ taxane/ FDA approved/ cytotoxic.
Q. Is paclitaxel a vesicant? 
Paclitaxel is usually a vesicant (irritant).
Q. Is paclitaxel light sensitive/ hydrophobic/ cardiotoxic?
Yes, paclitaxel is light sensitive/ hydrophobic/ cardiotoxic.
Q. 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.
Q. What is paclitaxel derived from? 
Paclitaxel is derived from bark of the Pacific yew, Taxus brevifolia.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)