Docetaxel, also known by its brand name Taxotere, is a medication used to treat advanced prostate cancer. It is a form of chemotherapy that has been used extensively for years to treat other cancers as well, including breast, ovarian and certain forms of lung cancer.
How Does Docetaxel Work?Docetaxel works by disrupting cell division (called mitosis). Since cancer cells are some of the most rapidly dividing cells in the body, these cells are preferentially affected by the action of docetaxel and, consequently, die at high rates when the drug is administered.
Why Is It Used for Prostate Cancer?Docetaxel is used to treat advanced prostate cancer; specifically, in men whose prostate cancer has spread beyond the prostate and which has become resistant to hormone therapy.
For men at this stage of cancer, there are not many treatment choices, as they have likely already undergone radiation therapy or surgery and have also tried and then developed resistance to hormone therapy.
Docetaxel was brought into the mainstream of prostate cancer therapy after a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004 that showed that docetaxel in combination with the steroid prednisone resulted in improved survival when compared to the then-standard drug for advanced prostate cancer, mitoxantrone. The New England Journal article also showed that those men treated with docetaxel had overall better quality of life and improved pain control.
What Are the Side Effects
As with all chemotherapy drugs, there are a wide variety of side effects that can occur when taking docetaxel. More information about these side effects is available here.
Martel CL, Gumerlock PH, Meyers FJ, et al. Current strategies in the management of hormone refractory prostate cancer. Cancer Treat Rev. 2003;29:171-187.
Tannock IF, de Wit R, Berry WR, et al. Docetaxel plus prednisone or mitoxantrone plus prednisone for advanced prostate cancer. N. Engl. J. Med. 351 (15): 1502–12.