Chemocare.com

Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Abraxane



Generic Name: Paclitaxel protein-bound

Drug Type:

Abraxane is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug.  Abraxane is classified as an "plant alkaloid," a "taxane" and an "antimicrotubule agent."  (For more detail, see "How Abraxane Works" section below.)

What Abraxane Is Used For:

  • Abraxane is used to treat breast cancer after failure of combination chemotherapy for metastatic disease or relapse within 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapy. Prior therapy should have included an anthracycline chemotherapy unless clinically not appropriate.
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Pancreas cancer

Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.

How Abraxane Is Given:

  • The amount of Abraxane that you will receive depends on many factors, including your height and weight, your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition you have. Your doctor will determine your exact dosage and schedule. 

Abraxane Side Effects:

Important things to remember about the side effects of Abraxane:

  • You will not get all of the side effects mentioned below.
  • Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset, duration, and severity.
  • Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after therapy is complete.
  • Side effects are quite manageable. There are many options to minimize or prevent them.

The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking Abraxane:

The following are less common side effects for patients receiving Abraxane:

This list includes common and less common side effects for those taking Abraxane.  Side effects that are very rare -- occurring in less than about 10 percent of patients -- are not listed here.  But you should always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

When To Contact Your Doctor or Health Care Provider:

Contact your health care provider immediately, day or night, if you should experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher, chills (possible signs of infection)

The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency. Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:

  • If you notice any redness or pain at the site of injection.
  • Nausea (interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medication).
  • Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
  • Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period).
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools.
  • Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities).
  • Mouth sores (painful redness, swelling or ulcers).
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet.
  • Signs of infection such as redness or swelling, pain on swallowing, coughing up mucous, or painful urination

Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

Abraxane Precautions:

  • Before starting Abraxane treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking (including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.).  
  • Do not receive any kind of immunization or vaccination without your doctor's approval while taking Abraxane.
  • Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment.  Pregnancy category D (Abraxane may be hazardous to the fetus).  Women who are pregnant or become pregnant must be advised of the potential hazard to the fetus.
  • For both men and women: Use contraceptives, and do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking Abraxane. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended.
  • Do not breast feed while taking Abraxane.

Abraxane Self Care Tips:

  • Abraxane, or the medications that you take with Abraxane may cause you to feel dizzy or drowsy.  Do not operate any heavy machinery until you know how you respond to Abraxane.
  • If you notice any redness or pain at the injection site, place a warm compress, and notify your healthcare provider.
  • Drink at least two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
  • You may be at risk of infection so try to avoid crowds or people with colds, and report fever or any other signs of infection immediately to your health care provider.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • To help treat/prevent mouth sores, use a soft toothbrush, and rinse three times a day with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda and/or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 8 ounces of water.
  • Use an electric razor and a soft toothbrush to minimize bleeding.
  • Avoid contact sports or activities that could cause injury.
  • To reduce nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, and eat small, frequent meals. 
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprophen may help relieve discomfort from fever, headache and/or generalized aches and pains.  However, be sure to talk with your doctor before taking it. 
  • Avoid sun exposure.  Wear SPF 15 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.
  • In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely.  You should discuss this with your doctor.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Maintain good nutrition
  • If you experience symptoms or side effects, be sure to discuss them with your health care team.  They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.

Monitoring And Testing While Taking Abraxane:

You will be checked regularly by your doctor while you are taking Abraxane, to monitor side effects and check your response to therapy.  Periodic blood work will be obtained to monitor your complete blood count (CBC) as well as the function of other organs (such as your kidneys and liver) will also be ordered by your doctor.   

How Abraxane Works:

Cancerous tumors are characterized by cell division, which is no longer controlled as it is in normal tissue. "Normal" cells stop dividing when they come into contact with like cells, a mechanism known as contact inhibition.  Cancerous cells lose this ability.  Cancer cells no longer have the normal checks and balances in place that control and limit cell division.  The process of cell division, whether normal or cancerous cells, is through the cell cycle.  The cell cycle goes from the resting phase, through active growing phases, and then to mitosis (division).

The ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells depends on its ability to halt cell division.  Usually, the drugs work by damaging the RNA or DNA that tells the cell how to copy itself in division.  If the cells are unable to divide, they die.  The faster the cells are dividing, the more likely it is that chemotherapy will kill the cells, causing the tumor to shrink.  They also induce cell suicide (self-death or apoptosis).

Chemotherapy drugs that affect cells only when they are dividing are called cell-cycle specific.  Chemotherapy drugs that affect cells when they are at rest are called cell-cycle non-specific.  The scheduling of chemotherapy is set based on the type of cells, rate at which they divide, and the time at which a given drug is likely to be effective.  This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.

Chemotherapy is most effective at killing cells that are rapidly dividing.  Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not know the difference between the cancerous cells and the normal cells. The "normal" cells will grow back and be healthy but in the meantime, side effects occur.  The "normal" cells most commonly affected by chemotherapy are the blood cells, the cells in the mouth, stomach and bowel, and the hair follicles; resulting in low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, and/or hair loss.  Different drugs may affect different parts of the body.

Abraxane belongs to a class of chemotherapy drugs called plant alkaloids. Plant alkaloids are made from plants.  The vinca alkaloids are made from the periwinkle plant (catharanthus rosea). The taxanes are made from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxus).  The vinca alkaloids and taxanes are also known as antimicrotubule agents. The podophyllotoxins are derived from the May apple plant. Camptothecan analogs are derived from the Asian "Happy Tree" (Camptotheca acuminata).  Podophyllotoxins and camptothecan analogs are also known as topoisomerase inhibitors.  The plant alkaloids are cell-cycle specific.  This means they attack the cells during various phases of division.

  • Vinca alkaloids: Vincristine, Vinblastine and Vinorelbine
  • Taxanes:  Paclitaxel and Docetaxel
  • Podophyllotoxins:  Etoposide and Tenisopide
  • Camptothecan analogs: Irinotecan and Topotecan

Antimicrotubule agents (such as paclitaxel), inhibit the microtubule structures within the cell.  Microtubules are part of the cell's apparatus for dividing and replicating itself.  Inhibition of these structures ultimately results in cell death.

Note:  We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.