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Doxorubicin: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Effect

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The anthracycline doxorubicin (DOX) is widely used in chemotherapy due to its efficacy in fighting a wide range of cancers such as carcinomas, sarcomas and hematological cancers. Despite extensive clinical utilization, the mechanisms of action of DOX remain under intense debate. A growing body of evidence supports the view that this drug can be a double-edge sword. Indeed, injury to nontargeted tissues often complicates cancer treatment by limiting therapeutic dosages of DOX and diminishing the quality of patients' life during and after DOX treatment. The literature shows that the heart is a preferential target of DOX toxicity. However, this anticancer drug also affects other organs like the brain, kidney and liver. This review is mainly devoted to discuss the mechanisms underlying not only DOX beneficial effects but also its toxic outcomes. Additionally, clinical studies focusing the therapeutic efficacy and side effects of DOX treatment will be discussed. Finally, some potential strategies to attenuate DOX-induced toxicity will be debated.

Keywords: Brain; doxorubicin; heart; kidney; liver; side effects; therapeutic effects

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, Institute of Physiology- Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, 3000-354 Coimbra, Portugal.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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