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Liposomal doxorubicin

Find out what liposomal doxorubicin is, how you have it and other important information about taking this drug.

What it is

Liposomal doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug that is also called by the brand names Caelyx, Myocet or Doxil. It contains the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (Adriamycin) wrapped up in a fatty covering called a liposome. 

It is a treatment for some types of cancer, including: 

  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • multiple myeloma
  • a type of sarcoma called Kaposi's sarcoma

How it works

Doxorubicin is a type of chemotherapy drug called an anthracycline. It works by blocking an enzyme called topo isomerase 2 that cancer cells need in order to divide and grow. 

Liposomal doxorubicin is doxorubicin contained in tiny spheres called pegylated liposomes. These spheres keep the doxorubicin in the bloodstream longer, so that more of the drug reaches the cancer cells. 

How you have it

Liposomal doxorubicin is a light red liquid that you have through a drip (infusion) into your bloodstream. It usually takes between 30 to 90 minutes each time you have it. 

Drugs into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

When you have it

You usually have liposomal doxorubicin every 2 to 4 weeks. Your treatment plan will depend on the type of cancer you have. 

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with this drug and for at least 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine
  • be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, you mustn't change their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination.

You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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