Taxotere is chemotherapy drug marketed by Sanofi-Aventis that has been approved to treat breast cancer and a number of other cancers. The side effects of Taxotere may include permanent alopecia (hair loss).

What is Taxotere?

Taxotere (docetaxel) is approved to treat:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Gastric Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Taxotere is usually administered in combination with other chemotherapy medicines, and is often prescribed after surgery. The medication belongs to a class of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes, and is derived from a compound extracted from the needles of yew trees.

How Does Taxotere Work?

Taxotere works by preventing cancer cells from dividing, thus killing the cells and preventing their spread. The drug is administered intravenously in a hospital every three weeks as a one hour infusion. Patients undergoing Taxotere therapy may be prescribed a course of corticosteroids to be taken by mouth for three days, starting one day before the infusion, in order to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

Taxotere and Permanent Alopecia

Many chemo treatments, including Taxotere, can cause temporary hair loss. However, mounting evidence indicates that alopecia associated with Taxotere can be permanent.

  • A study published by the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center indicated that 6.3% of patients may experience this side effect as a result of Taxotere.
  • In 2013, a survey conducted by the Clatterbridge Cancer Center in the U.K. suggested that that permanent alopecia could affect 10-15% of breast cancer survivors treated with Taxotere. Read More
  • In December 2015, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) updated the Taxotere label to warn about the possibility of permanent alopecia, or hair loss

Other Taxotere Side Effects

As it kills cancer cells, Taxotere also harms normal, healthy cells, including blood cells. Because it can decrease the production of blood cells, patients treated with this drug are susceptible to infection. Regular blood tests are therefore needed to monitor levels of blood cells.

Taxotere side effects may include:

  • Bone marrow suppression (decreased production of blood cells by the bone marrow)
  • Neutropenia (decrease in the number of white blood cells called neutrophils in the blood)
  • Pyrexia (fever)
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Thrombocytopenia (decrease in the number of platelets in the blood)
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Stomatitis (Inflammation of the lining of the mouth)
  • Alteration in taste
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hypersensitivity reactions to the infusion (flushing, rash, itching, chest tightness, back pain, shortness of breath, fever, chills, or more severe reactions such as a drop in blood pressure, narrowing of the airways or widespread rash or reddening of the skin_
  • Soreness and redness of the palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Change in the color of nails
  • Alopecia
  • Fluid Retention
  • Arrhythmias (Abnormal heart beats)
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Asthenia (Weakness or loss of strength)
  • Pain in the muscles and joints
  1. FDA (2010) “Taxotere: Highlights of Prescribing Information”
  2. NCRI (2013) “Long Term Hair Loss in Patients with Early Breast Cancer Receiving Docetaxel Chemotherapy”
  3. FDA (2015) “Taxotere (docetaxel) injection concentrate”
Last Modified: March 10, 2016

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