Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is a cytotoxic chemotherapy drug and an antitumor antibiotic in the anthracycline group. This drug is produced for the treatment of a multitude of cancers, including breast and ovarian, leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Wilms tumor, neuoroblastoma, and sarcoma. However, it is most commonly used to treat patients with breast cancer.
So let’s start with the most talked about and memorable characteristic of this drug—its color. Doxorubicin is bright red—like very red. Like, any moment the red Kool-aid man will jump through the wall screaming, “Oh Yeah!” It is because of its bright red color that the drug was rightfully nicknamed, the red devil.
Imagine, you are sitting in a chemo chair and the nurse brings in a giant syringe full of bright red liquid. It is enough to make anyone freak out! Not only is it brought to you in a large syringe, it must be pressed through manually, incredibly slow so as not to cause extravasation. Due to this, most cancer patients opt for a port-a-cath to minimize the risk.
Another reason for its nasty reputation is that it causes horrific side effects. Common side effects (greater than 30%) include nausea and vomiting, low blood counts, loss of appetite, weight changes, mouth sores, and alopecia (hair loss).
Even though it is not common, doxorubicin, epirubicin, and some other chemotherapy drugs can cause permanent heart damage (called cardiomyopathy). The risk is highest if the drug is used for a long time or in high doses.
–American Cancer Society