Doxorubicin Information


  • Other names: Adriamycin, Doxil, Rubex

  • Manufactured by: APP Pharmaceuticals, Bedford Laboratories, Janssen Products, Pfizer Inc., Teva Parenteral Medicines

  • FDA-approved: Yes
  • Used or tested in: Bladder cancer, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, lung cancer, lymphomas, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma, neuroblastoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, sarcomas, stomach cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, uterine cancer

Doxorubicin is one of the most commonly used chemotherapeutic agents to treat mesothelioma patients and among the most studied. Doxorubicin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in a number of cancers, including breast cancer and lung cancer, and its benefits continue to be researched in mesothelioma.

Study results show that the drug can extend the lives of mesothelioma patients. The results show even more improved survival times when it is used along with other chemotherapy drugs, but using such a combination has potential to cause long-term side effects. It is important to consider the benefits and risks of chemotherapy with the guidance of your oncologist and the support of your loved ones.

How Is it Used?

Doxorubicin is administered intravenously. The duration of administration and the dosage will depend upon whether it is combined with another chemotherapy drug.

Some studies are also testing it in a heated chemotherapy capacity. In heated chemotherapy, surgeons put the heated drug inside the chest or abdominal cavity immediately following surgery to enhance contact with cancer growth.

What Are the Side Effects?

The most common side effects include hair loss, darkening of nails, nausea, vomiting, bruising, abnormal heart beat and stomach pain. If you feel pain, itching, redness, swelling, blisters or sores near the injection site following administration, inform your doctor promptly.

Patients treated with doxorubicin also have a slightly elevated risk of developing leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome (which can develop into leukemia) years after treatment. The risk of leukemia increases in patients treated with a combination of doxorubicin and other chemotherapy drugs. In a review of 8,563 breast cancer patients who received treatment with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, 45 developed leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome.

Study Results

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In mesothelioma clinical trials, doxorubicin administered alone resulted in a median life span of seven to nine months. By combining it with other chemotherapy agents, median life span increases to seven to 13 months. Some people with mesothelioma have surpassed the median life expectancy by several years after combination chemotherapy. Patients with the epithelial cell type of mesothelioma tend to respond better to doxorubicin than patients with other cell types.

In one study, 67 peritoneal mesothelioma patients were treated with doxorubicin and the chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and cisplatin. The patients achieved a median survival of 79 months, or about 6.5 years, and one patient lived past 12 years.

Fast Fact: Because of increased demand and manufacturing delays of doxorubicin, most pharmaceutical companies had a shortage of the drug in 2011.

A small Japanese study on peritoneal mesothelioma patients published in 2010 confirmed these results. It studied the efficacy of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin alone and in combination with other chemotherapy agents. The study found that cisplatin was most effective in mesothelioma patients when it was combined with doxorubicin rather than with gemcitabine or pemetrexed, two other successful chemotherapy drugs.

An interesting case report of a nine-year survivor with pleural mesothelioma who responded well to combination chemotherapy with doxorubicin was published in 2012. The 67-year-old man was treated with the chemotherapy drugs etoposide, paclitaxel and pegylated liposomal doxorubicin hydrochloride (a form of doxorubicin that is more absorbed by tumors than normal tissues). The patient's follow-up continues, and CT scans indicate the cancer hasn't progressed for nine years.

Research continues to investigate the therapeutic benefits of doxorubicin for people with mesothelioma. Clinical trials in the United States and in other countries are ongoing.

Additional Resources

  1. American Cancer Society (2011). Chemotherapy. Retrieved from
  2. American Cancer Society (2011). Doxorubicin. Retrieved from
  3. Chemocare (2005). Chemotherapy drugs: Doxorubicin. Retrieved from
  4. Cognetti, F., Ceribelli, An & Cecere, F.L. (2008). Clinical oncology of mesothelioma. In A. Baldi (Ed.), Mesothelioma from Bench Side to Clinic, pp. 347-356.
  5. Food and Drug Administration (2011). Current drug shortages. Retrieved from
  6. Food and Drug Administration (2011). FDA-approved drug products: Doxorubicin hydrochloride. Retrieved from
  7. Jänne, P.A. (2003). Chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Clinical Lung Cancer, 5(2), pp. 98-106. Retrieved from
  8. Medline Plus (2011). Doxorubicin. Retrieved from
  9. National Cancer Institute (2011). Cancer drug information: Doxorubicin hydrochloride. Retrieved from
  10. National Cancer Institute (2011). Dictionary of cancer terms: Doxorubicin. Retrieved from
  11. Kim, S.T., et al (2010). The efficacy of the frontline platinum-based combination chemotherapy in malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, 40(11), pp. 1031-1036. Retrieved from
  12. Pfizer Inc. (2011). Doxorubicin hydrochloride for injection. Retrieved from
  13. Smith, R.E., Bryant, J., DeCillis, A., & Anderson, S. (2003). Acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome after doxorubicin-cyclophosphamide adjuvant therapy for operable breast cancer: The national surgical adjuvant breast and bowel project experience. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21(7): 1195-1204. Retrieved from
  14. Yan, T.D., et al (2006). A systemic review on the efficacy of cytoreductive surgery combined with perioperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy for diffuse malignancy peritoneal mesothelioma. Annals of Oncology, 18, pp. 827-834. Retrieved from
  15. Zarogoulidis, P., Mavroudi, M., Porpodis, K., Domvri, K., Sakkas, A., Machairiotis, N., … & Zarogoulidis, K. (2012). Pegylated liposomal doxorubicin in malignant pleural mesothelioma: A possible guardian for long-term survival. Journal of Onco Targers and Therapy, 5: 231-236. doi: 10.2147/OTT.S36915

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