Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)

The basics

Doxorubicin (brand name- Adriamycin) is an FDA-approved treatment used in combination with other medications for bladder, breast, lung, stomach, and ovarian cancer; Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system); and certain types of leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells), including acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML, ANLL).

Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is also used for thyroid cancer and soft tissue or bone sarcomas (cancer that forms in muscles and bones). It is also used to treat neuroblastoma (a cancer that begins in nerve cells and occurs mainly in children) and Wilms’ tumor (a type of kidney cancer that occurs in children).

Doxorubicin is in a class of medications called anthracyclines. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells in your body.

Let us walk you through the key things you need to know about doxorubicin

Make sure you read IMPORTANT WARNING section at the end of this article.

How should I take Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)?

Patient getting IV chemotherapy

Doxorubicin comes as a solution (liquid) or as a powder to be mixed with liquid to be injected intravenously (into a vein) by a doctor or nurse in a medical facility. It is usually given once every 21 to 28 days.
Take doxorubicin exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or more often than your doctor prescribes.

Do not stop taking doxorubicin without talking to your doctor. You can help them by tracking your side effects in Ankr.

What are the side effects of doxorubicin (Adriamycin)?

Common side effects

Serious side effects

Doxorubicin may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

Use the free Ankr platform or Ankr app to track your symptoms.

What special precautions should I follow?

Before receiving doxorubicin (Adriamycin)

  • tell your doctor about your allergies
  • tell your doctor about other intakes
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any other disease, symptom, or treatment
  • You should not become pregnant or breast-feed while you are receiving doxorubicin injection.

While you are on doxorubicin (Adriamycin)

  • If you become pregnant while receiving doxorubicin, call your doctor. Use a reliable method of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Doxorubicin may harm the fetus.
  • tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. You should not breastfeed during your treatment
  • do not have any vaccinations without talking to your doctor.

In case of an emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.

Symptoms of overdose may include the following:

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.

Brand names

  • Adriamycin®
  • Rubex®

Other names

  • Hydroxydaunomycin Hydrochloride
  • Hydroxydoxorubicin Hydrochloride

This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.

Last Revised 06/011/2023, FDA updated- 01/15/2012, SG

Doxorubicin should be administered only into a vein. However, it may leak into surrounding tissue causing severe irritation or damage. Your doctor or nurse will monitor your administration site for this reaction. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: pain, itching, redness, swelling, blisters, or sores in the place where the medication was injected.

Side effects

Doxorubicin may cause serious or life-threatening heart problems at any time during your treatment or months to years after your treatment has ended. Your doctor will order tests before and during your treatment to see if your heart is working well enough for you to safely receive doxorubicin. These tests may include an electrocardiogram (ECG; test that records the electrical activity of the heart) and an echocardiogram (test that uses sound waves to measure your heart’s ability to pump blood). Your doctor may tell you that you should not receive this medication if you have an abnormal heart rate or if the tests show your heart’s ability to pump blood has decreased.

Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any type of heart disease, a heart attack, or radiation (x-ray) therapy to the chest area.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking or have ever received certain cancer chemotherapy medications such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), daunorubicin (Cerubidine, DaunoXome), epirubicin (Ellence), idarubicin (Idamycin), mitoxantrone (Novantrone), paclitaxel (Abraxane, Onxol), trastuzumab (Herceptin), or verapamil (Calan, Isoptin).

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: shortness of breath; difficulty breathing; swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or lower legs; or fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat.

Doxorubicin can cause a severe decrease in the number of blood cells in your bone marrow. Your doctor will order laboratory tests regularly before and during your treatment. A decrease in the number of blood cells in your body may cause certain symptoms and may increase the risk that you will develop a serious infection or bleeding.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking or have received azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), or progesterone (Provera, Depo-Provera).

other effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: fever, sore throat, ongoing cough and congestion, or other signs of infection; unusual bleeding or bruising; bloody or black, tarry stools; bloody vomit; or vomiting blood or brown material that resembles coffee grounds.

Doxorubicin may increase your risk for developing leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells), especially when it is given in high doses or together with certain other chemotherapy medications and radiation (x-ray) therapy.

Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver disease. Your doctor may tell you that you should not receive this medication or may change your dose if you have liver disease.

Doxorubicin should be given only under the supervision of a doctor with experience in the use of chemotherapy medications.

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DISCLAIMER: No part of this content constitutes medical advice, opinion, or should be used for medical decision making without consultation with a licenced medical practitioner and under a patient-provider relationship. All information on the website is provided without any claims of accuracy. For full terms and conditions, visit this link. Content curated by the Ankr team.

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