What Is Docetaxel (Taxotere®)?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2022 | Last updated: October 2022

Docetaxel (Taxotere®) is a chemotherapy drug that prevents or stops the development and growth of tumors. It is used with prednisone to treat people with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). This is prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and is not responding to treatment to lower testosterone levels.1,2

In combination with the drug darolutamide, docetaxel is used to treat metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer (mHSPC).3

Docetaxel also is used to treat other cancers, including:1,2

  • Breast cancer
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Gastric adenocarcinoma
  • Head and neck cancer

What are the ingredients of docetaxel?

The active ingredient is docetaxel.2

How does docetaxel work?

Docetaxel works by disrupting the microtubules in a person’s cells. Microtubules are microscopic tubes that help cells divide. By interfering with the microtubules’ function in cancer cells, docetaxel causes the cells to die.4

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of docetaxel include:2

  • Infections
  • Low white blood cell count, low red blood cell count, or low platelets
  • Allergic reactions
  • Changes in sense of taste
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Changes in your fingernails or toenails
  • Swelling of your hands, face, or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Mouth or lip sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Redness or watering of the eyes
  • Skin reactions at the injection site
  • Tissue damage if the drug leaks out of a vein

Docetaxel has a boxed warning, the strictest warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has this warning because several rare but more serious side effects can occur, including:2

  • Death
  • Changes in liver function
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Severe fluid retention
  • Reproductive health complications
  • Nervous system (neurological) problems
  • Vision problems

There is a risk of developing certain blood disorders while taking docetaxel. Other types of cancer, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), can develop when taking docetaxel with certain other medicines.2

Docetaxel also has reproductive health risks. Use contraceptives during treatment and for a period of time following treatment if you have a partner who could become pregnant. Discuss birth control methods, and how long to use them, with your doctor.2

These are not all the possible side effects of docetaxel. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking docetaxel. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking docetaxel.

Other things to know

Docetaxel is administered through an injection into a vein (IV, or intravenous, injection). Your doctor will determine the appropriate dosage and administration schedule for you, including treatment length. They also will decide whether you should take any other drugs with docetaxel, such as darolutamide or prednisone.2

Docetaxel contains alcohol in amounts high enough to impair your ability to drive or operate machinery. Limit any of these activities after treatment until it is safe to continue.2

People taking docetaxel should be monitored for:2

  • Changes in blood cell counts
  • Serious infections or allergic reactions
  • Severe fluid retention
  • Numbness in the hands and feet
  • Changes in liver function

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:2

  • Numbness, tingling, or burning of your hands or feet
  • Blurred vision or loss of vision
  • Extreme swelling of your hands, feet, or limbs
  • Redness and swelling of your arms or legs
  • Peeling skin

Before beginning treatment for prostate cancer, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of docetaxel.

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