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Docetaxel - Mechanism of Action, Administration, Side Effects, Precautions

  • Docetaxel is a chemotherapy medication that belongs to the taxane class of drugs. It is commonly used in the treatment of various types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and head and neck cancer. Docetaxel is sold under the brand name Taxotere.

Mechanism of Action:

  • Docetaxel works by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. It functions as a microtubule inhibitor, meaning it interferes with the normal function of microtubules, which are essential for cell division. Microtubules are structures that help in the formation of the mitotic spindle during cell division, and they also play a role in maintaining the cell's shape and structure. Docetaxel binds to the beta-tubulin subunit of microtubules, promoting their assembly and stabilization, leading to cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell proliferation. Ultimately, this disrupts the ability of cancer cells to divide and grow, resulting in their death.


Docetaxel is used in the treatment of various types of cancer, including:

  1. Breast Cancer: Docetaxel is commonly used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, either as a single agent or in combination with other chemotherapeutic drugs.

  2. Lung Cancer: It is used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), both in locally advanced and metastatic stages.

  3. Prostate Cancer: Docetaxel is used in combination with prednisone for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.

  4. Stomach Cancer: It is used as part of combination therapy for advanced stomach cancer or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma.

  5. Head and Neck Cancer: Docetaxel is used in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.


  • Docetaxel is administered intravenously (IV) by a healthcare professional. The dosage and treatment schedule may vary depending on the type of cancer being treated and the patient's overall health. The drug is usually infused over a period of one hour. Pre-medications, such as corticosteroids and antihistamines, are often given before docetaxel infusion to minimize potential hypersensitivity reactions.

Side Effects:

Docetaxel, like other chemotherapy drugs, can cause several side effects. Common side effects include:

  1. Bone marrow suppression: Docetaxel can suppress the production of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, leading to an increased risk of infections, anemia, and bleeding problems.

  2. Gastrointestinal effects: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mucositis (inflammation of the mucous membranes) can occur.

  3. Hair loss: Temporary hair loss or thinning is a common side effect of docetaxel. Hair usually grows back after the completion of treatment.

  4. Fatigue: Patients may experience fatigue and weakness during treatment.

  5. Peripheral neuropathy: Some individuals may develop tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, known as peripheral neuropathy.

  6. Hypersensitivity reactions: Although rare, severe allergic reactions can occur during or shortly after docetaxel infusion. Pre-medications are given to minimize this risk.

It's important to note that the side effects and their severity can vary from person to person. Healthcare providers closely monitor patients during treatment to manage and minimize these side effects.


  • Docetaxel is a potent chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of various types of cancer. By disrupting microtubule function, it inhibits cell


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