Taxol (Paclitaxel) - Chemotherapy Drug Profile

Used to Treat Any Stage of Breast Cancer

Taxol Molecule
This model of a taxol molecule was computer generated. Taxol, originally extracted from the pacific yew tree (taxus brevifolin), is used as chemotherapy for a variety of cancers. George McGregor. National Cancer Institute

Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy drug that is given for breast cancer. Also called Taxol®, it is part of the drug class taxanes, which includes docetaxel (Taxotere®) and Abraxane®, which are made from Yew trees (genus Taxus).

Definition: Taxol is a taxane drug and mitotic inhibitor that is used to treat cancer. It is a clear, colorless fluid that is given as a chemotherapy infusion. Because it is quite thick and sticky, it requires a pump to properly administer the infusion.

Use for breast cancer: This drug is given to treat breast cancer, after combination anthracycline and cytoxan therapy. Taxol is given for early-stage and metastatic breast cancer and is also given as neoadjuvant treatment (to shrink a tumor before surgery).

Other uses: In addition to breast cancer, Taxol is used to treat ovarian cancer, lung cancer, head and neck cancerbladder cancer, and AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Also Known As: Taxol, Onxol®

How it works: Taxol is called a mitotic inhibitor. Cells grow by a process called mitosis (cell division). Taxol targets rapidly growing cancer cells, enters into the cells and attaches to a scaffold structure of the cells called microtubules and prevents the cancer cells  from dividing. Since the cancer cells cannot divide into new cells, cancer is stopped from growing.

How Taxol is Given: Doses of Taxol are given as an infusion, pumped from a dose bag into a vein.

Taxol is mixed with Cremophor EL (polyoxyethylated castor oil). It can be given as high-dose chemo, once every three weeks, once every two weeks, or in low doses on a weekly basis. In some rare cases, Taxol may be given slowly during a 24-hour infusion. You will be given premedications to prevent allergic reactions and nausea.

Taxol - Side Effects, Risks, Recommendations

Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy drug that is given for breast cancer. Also called Taxol®, it is part of the drug class taxanes, which include docetaxel (Taxotere®) and Abraxane®, which are made from Yew trees (genus Taxus).

Taxol is well-tolerated, especially in low doses, and side effects are often mild. You probably won't have all of these side effects, but here are some which may occur.

Possible Side Effects:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (tingling and numbness in hands and feet due to irritation of nerves)
  • Neutropenia (low white blood cell count, greater risk of infection)
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Mucositis (irritated mucous membrane in your mouth)
  • Amenhorrea (monthly menstrual cycle stops)
  • Changes in nails (brittle or yellowed)

Risks of Use

Recommendations During Treatment

Taxol - Use for Breast Cancer Treatment, Description, Dosage


U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Oncology Tools Product Label Details in Conventional Order for Paclitaxel. Last updated: July 1, 1998. 

National Cancer Institute. Drug Information – Paclitaxel. Last Updated: 06/14/2007. 

American Cancer Society. Drug Guide. Paclitaxel. Last updated: 2004 

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