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Brand names:


Other names:

Hydroxydaunomycin hydrochloride, Doxorubicin hydrochloride

Often used for:

Leukemia, Lymphoma, Wilms tumor, Neuroblastoma, Sarcomas, Other solid tumors

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About Doxorubicin

Doxorubicin is a type of chemotherapy. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cells. It is usually used in combination with other medicines.

Doxorubicin can cause serious heart problems. These problems can occur during therapy or months to years later. Families should tell the care team right away if the patient has a cough, a heartbeat that does not feel normal (such as too fast or too slow), swelling in the arms or legs, shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, tiredness or weakness. The care team may order tests before and during treatment to see if the patient’s heart is working well enough to receive doxorubicin.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver and kidney function. This medicine can cause heart damage, and heart function will be closely monitored.

Doxorubicin can cause tissue damage if it leaks from the vein. Patients may have irritation and skin damage at the IV site. Let a caregiver know if there is burning during administration.

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Given as a liquid into a vein by IV or injection

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Possible Side Effects

  • Red or orange color of urine
  • Mouth sores
  • Heart problems
  • Change in skin color at the site of radiation treatment
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Eye pain or irritation
  • Change in nails
  • Low blood counts, usually after 10-14 days
  • Liver problems
  • Change in the normal menstrual cycle
  • Loss of fertility (may be temporary)
  • Skin irritation at the IV site

Not all patients who take doxorubicin will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Possible Late Effects

Some patients may experience long-term or late effects of treatment that may continue or develop months or years after treatment ends. Possible late effects due to doxorubicin include:

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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Doxorubicin can damage the heart. Patients should have ongoing monitoring of cardiac function and watch for signs of heart disease. Heart problems can occur at any time during or after treatment.
  • A doctor may prescribe medicine to reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • If doxorubicin is given after radiation therapy, the skin area that was exposed to radiation therapy may become red again.
  • While taking this medicine, do not eat grapefruit or Seville (bitter) oranges or drink juice or beverages containing grapefruit or Seville orange. 
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 6 months after completion of therapy.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Caregivers should follow instructions to avoid contact with patient body fluids which can contain the drug for 48 hours after it is given.