Taxotere Key Terms

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Abraxane: one brand name of paclitaxel, a chemical compound used as a chemotherapy drug. Abraxane, like Taxol, is a taxane drug that can often be used as an alternative to Taxotere.

Acral Erythema: the medical term for skin toxicity, a common side effect of Taxotere and other taxane chemotherapy drugs. In this condition, the skin becomes red, sore, tender, or inflamed, and may shed in severe cases.

Adjuvant Therapy: chemotherapy treatment which is administered after surgery or radiation to target undetected cancerous cells which may remain in the body.

Adriamycin: the brand name of the chemical compound doxorubicin, a cytotoxic chemotherapy agent derived from the soil fungus Streptomyces, often used in conjunction with Taxotere.

Adenocarcinoma: a type of tumor that can form in various types of cancers, such as prostate, lung, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers. It forms in the glands of the body which secrete mucous.

Adverse Events: a phrase used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label complaints and side effects that patients experience from a drug which was not originally noted in clinical trials or preclinical research.

Alopecia: a broad term for any form of semi-permanent or permanent, unexplained hair loss.

Alopecia Areata (AA): a form of alopecia in which the body’s own immune system attacks itself, including the hair follicles, causing hair loss.

Alopecia Totalis (AT): a form of alopecia in which all the hair on the entire scalp is lost, resulting in total baldness.

Alopecia Universalis (AU): a severe form of alopecia in which the hair on the entire body is is shed, including the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, armpits, pubic area, arms, and legs.

Anagen Effluvium: a form of alopecia in which all the hair in the growth phase (anagen phase) is systematically shed from the body, usually due to the introduction of a toxic chemical into the body. Hair loss from Taxotere is almost always an instance of anagen effluvium.

Anemia: a possible side effect caused by Taxotere in which the body fails to produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, the components which carry oxygen through the blood. The ensuing lack of oxygen can lead to rapid heart rate, fatigue, and general loss of energy.

Anthracycline: a group of cancer-fighting drugs originally derived from the soil fungus Streptomyces. Their anti-tumor capabilities were discovered in the mid-sixties and they are in continual use today, although multiple alternatives to the original compound have since been developed.

Apoptosis: pre-programmed cell death. In cancer, sometimes the natural process of apoptosis is halted, allowing cells to grow and divide unchecked. Chemotherapy can help restore natural cell death.

Black Box Warning: a severe warning that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adds to drugs which have potentially deadly side effects. Some chemotherapy drugs, such as Taxotere, include this warning on their labels.

Cardiotoxicity: the measure of a drug’s ability to cause a group of heart conditions such as heart attack, arrhythmias, heart failure, and inflammation. Certain chemotherapy drugs, such as anthracyclines, have high cardiac toxicity and should not be used on patients with a history of heart problems.

Cisplatin: a platinum based chemotherapy drug often used in conjunction with Taxotere in the treatment of breast cancer and other cancers

Clinical Trial: one step in a series of trials designed to test promising drugs on new diseases. There are usually four clinical trials for each drug, sponsored by pharmaceuticals interested in developing the drug for sale. Sometimes patients are offered the option to voluntarily participate in these trials if the treatment seems promising for their condition and they meet the criteria.

Contraindication: a condition or state which indicates that a certain drug should not be used.

Corticosteroid: naturally produced and synthetic chemicals that help regulate the body’s immune system, stress response, metabolism, and behavior. They are often prescribed before chemotherapy to prepare the body for the introduction of a toxic drug. They can also be used in some cases to promote hair growth after chemotherapy, although their success varies.

Cyclophosphamide: the main chemical compound in the chemotherapy drug Cytoxan, often used in conjunction with Taxotere for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

Cystoid Macular Edema: an uncommon side effect of Taxotere in which the eye develops pockets of fluid similar to cysts. Although they are not painful, they can impair sight.

Cytoplasm: all the material within the membrane of the cell, excluding the nucleus.

Cytoskeleton: three components which make up the structure of the cell, similar to the skeleton of a larger organism. The cytoskeleton is composed of microtubules, actin filaments, and intermediate filaments. Taxotere attacks microtubules.

DCIS: Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer. This form of breast cancer begins in the milk duct, but is still contained and has not yet spread past its margins. DCIS is usually treated with prompt surgical removal to avoid metastasization.

Depolymerization: the process by which microtubules in the cell’s cytoskeleton are shortened, allowing the cell to change size and shape.

Dexamethasone: a corticosteroid prescribed to patients who will receive Taxotere. It is usually taken twice a day for three days prior to Taxotere administration in order to reduce the rate of hypersensitivity or allergic reactions to the drug and other toxic side effects.

Docetaxel: the name of the active chemical compound found in Taxotere. It is also sold as a generic drug.

Doxorubicin: a cytotoxic chemotherapy agent derived from the soil fungus Streptomyces, often used in conjunction with Taxotere. Doxorubicin is marketed as Adriamycin.

FDA: the Food and Drug Administration, a federal agency established in the late 1920s to review and approve pharmaceuticals for use in public health. They also evaluate claims made by drug companies to make sure they are presenting scientific research truthfully and transparently.

First-line Chemotherapy: also known as primary treatment, first-line chemotherapy regimens are those which are generally accepted by the medical community to be used as a primary option for treatment of a certain type of disease or cancer.

Fluorouracil: the generic name for the drug commonly marketed as Adrucil. Fluorouracil works by disrupting the metabolic processes that occur within the cell to prevent it from dividing, slowing cancer.

HER2: short for Human Epidermal Growth Factor, a type of protein found on the surface of 10-15% of breast cancer tumors. Certain chemotherapy drugs, such as Trastuzumab, can target HER2 receptors to fight the particular variation of the disease.

Hormone Receptor Status: a classification, either positive or negative, of breast cancer. Hormone receptor positive tumors grow in response to the presence of hormones and can be treated through the systematic deprivation of hormones in the body. This strategy will not work with hormone receptor negative tumors.

IDC: Invasive or Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer, with about 80% of patients presenting with IDC. Like DCIS, it forms in the milk duct, yet has begun to spread into the surrounding breast tissue. It is treated with surgery and often radiation, hormone therapy, and/or chemotherapy before or after surgery.

ILC: Invasive or Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma is the second more common form of breast cancer, affecting around 10% of patients. ILCs form in the lobes of the breast, where breast milk is actually produced. Like IDC, ILC has begun to spread from its point of origin and will therefore likely be treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation in addition to surgical removal of the tumor.

Infusion: chemotherapy is often designed to be administered over a period of time. For example, Taxotere is given through intravenous (IV) administration over a period of 3 hours. This medication process is called an infusion.

Intravenous: “into the vein.” Unlike many medicines which are taken orally, chemotherapy drugs, like Taxotere, are often pumped directly into the vein so that they can be circulated quickly through the body.

Metastasize: cancer which has metastasized has spread from its point of origin to other areas of the body, often forming secondary tumors or lesions at a distance from the original tumor. If cancer has metastasized, it is in a more advanced stage of development and therefore treatment will likely be more aggressive.

Microtubules: these structures are part of a cell’s cytoskeleton, growing and shrinking to allow the cell to move and providing pathways for the exchange of nutrients between different organelles within the cell. Taxotere specifically targets microtubules by stabilizing their ends, making it impossible for these dynamic components to function and effectively preventing the cell from replicating.

Minoxidil: the active chemical compound in the hair regrowth product known as Rogaine.

Mitosis: the process of cell division.

Mitotic Inhibitors: chemicals which inhibit cell division by targeting the microtubules necessary for dynamic cellular action. Taxotere is a mitotic inhibitor.

Monoclonal Antibody: a targeted cancer therapy that replicates natural antibodies found in the body. Monoclonal antibodies are designed to target particular antigens which are found in tumors. In the case of breast cancer, they usually target the protein HER2.

Monotherapy: used to describe chemotherapy treatments which only consist of one drug. Often, chemotherapy treatments will be composed of multiple drugs given in succession.

Mucositis: a common side effect of Taxotere in which mucous membranes of the mouth and digestive system are unable to replenish themselves. This side effect can be very painful and lead to sores, pain, burning, and pus in the mouth, along with ulcers throughout the digestive system.

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL): a legal process in which multiple lawsuits against a common plaintiff, sometimes hundreds of thousands, are consolidated for discovery in one US district court. Taxotere lawsuits have been thus consolidated in the Eastern District of Louisiana, although lawsuits are still being accepted and reviewed.

Neoadjuvant Therapy: chemotherapy treatment which is administered before surgery or radiation to shrink the tumor before the secondary treatment.

Neutropenia: a blood count disorder in which the body fails to produce enough of a certain white blood cell, called a neutrophil. This common side effect of Taxotere reduces the body’s ability to fight off infection, often leading to fevers, rashes, and ulcers.

Node-positive: a description of breast cancer which has spread to the lymph nodes, glands near the breast that are part of the lymph system.

NSCLC: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is a classification of lung cancer into which most cases of the disease fall. Taxotere is used as a second-line treatment for NSCLC, meaning that other regimens of chemotherapy are tried first before Taxotere is generally attempted.

Onycholysis: the separation of the nail from the nail bed. Onycholysis can be a side effect of Taxotere and can lead to the fingernail falling off, but the nails will regrow.

Organelle: components of a cell that exist within the membrane, such as mitochondria, vacuoles, and ribosomes.

Paclitaxel: the chemical compound which is the active ingredient in both Taxol and Abraxane, taxane chemotherapies which can often be used in place of Taxotere.

Palliative Care: care which is designed not to cure a patient of their illness, but to make them more comfortable, such as by removing masses which make it hard for a patient to breathe or by giving the patient pain medication. Some chemotherapy treatments are palliative or meant simply to extend the life of someone dying from cancer.

Peripheral Neuropathy: pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet associated with damage to the peripheral nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect of both Taxotere and Taxol.

Plant Alkaloid: also known as mitotic inhibitors, these are chemicals which inhibit cell division by targeting the microtubules necessary for dynamic cellular action. These drugs are originally derived from plants such as periwinkle, yew, or the May apple plant, although today many of them are produced synthetically.

Polymerization: the process by which microtubules in the cell’s cytoskeleton are lengthened, allowing the cell to change size and shape.

Polysorbate 80: a synthetic compound used as a stabilizer for docetaxel for the commercial production of Taxotere. Taxotere does not dissolve in water, so it must use an alternative carrier, such as polysorbate 80. Some people may have severe allergic reactions to this compound and need to find a different chemotherapy drug, such as Taxol.

SCCHN: Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck, a type of cancer that develops in the squamous cells which compose the mucous lining of the head and neck. Taxotere is used as a late stage option for the treatment of this type of cancer.

Second-line Chemotherapy: chemotherapy treatments which are only used after another accepted treatment has been attempted first. If the cancer continues to spread or the first treatment is in some way ineffective, second-line chemotherapy treatments may be implemented. The order of accepted treatments for each type of cancer is unique, and often there is no clear medical consensus on which drugs should be first- or second-line.

Taxane: a subcategory of mitotic inhibitors or plant alkaloids which are derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. Both paclitaxel and docetaxel are taxanes, marketed respectively as Taxol and Taxotere.

Taxol: a taxane chemotherapy drug with the active ingredient paclitaxel. This taxane chemotherapy is shown to have nearly identical rates of survival as Taxotere and does not cause permanent hair loss.

Telogen Effluvium: a form of alopecia in which all the hair in which more hair than normal suddenly enters the shedding phase (telogen phase). This condition is often brought about by a sudden change in lifestyle such as pregnancy, trauma, and sudden weight loss.

Time-to-progression: a measure of the success of a certain drug. Some drugs are not necessarily meant to cure a patient of cancer, but to slow the cancer down. To compare drugs, doctors will look at the average time it takes for the cancer to continue growing after treatment, or time-to-progression (TTP).

Thrombocytopenia: a blood disorder stemming from a deficiency of blood platelets which are essential to helping your body form blood clots. This deficiency can produce unexplained bruises, headaches, sudden bleeding in the mouth, and an inability to form blood clots.

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