Cytoxan (Cyclophosphamide) for Breast Cancer Treatment

A common chemotherapy drug

Nurse cleaning out chemotherapy infusion port
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Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) is a common chemotherapy drug that stunts or halts cancer cell growth. It is used in combination with other medications to treat breast cancer and several other forms of cancer. When considering Cytoxan or any breast cancer treatments, it's important to weigh the risks against the benefits and make an informed decision. You oncologist can help guide you through this process.

Indications

Cytoxan is typically used:

  • After surgery for early-stage breast cancer to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • Before surgery to shrink advanced-stage tumors
  • After surgery to treat advanced-stage tumors

This drug is also used to treat ovarian cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, mycosis fungoides, neuroblastoma, and retinoblastoma.

How It Works

Cytoxan works on cancer cells by damaging their DNA in a way that prevents them from dividing and kills them. This drug will also affect normal cells, but will have less effect on them since they divide more slowly and are better able to repair their DNA than cancer cells.

Some of your normal cells that may be affected include blood, mouth tissue, digestive tract, and hair follicle cells.

Drug Combinations

Cytoxan is often combined with one other drug, Adriamycin, in a chemotherapy infusion to treat breast cancer. This combination is called AC. In rare instances, these drugs may also be combined with fluorouracil and called FAC or CAF.

Another chemotherapy combination used for breast cancer is Taxotere and Cytoxan. There also is a very old but still commonly used mixture called CMF, which has Cytoxan, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil.

Efficacy

A study published in 2017 looked at the combination of Cytoxan and the drug docetaxel as neoadjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-negative primary breast cancer. Researchers found this combination was effective against triple-negative breast cancer, but not other forms.

In another 2017 study, Cytoxan was used in a combination called ACTHP that had an 85% success rate in clearing cancer from axillary nodes in HER2-positive early-stage cancer. The other drugs in the combination were:

  • Doxorubicin
  • Trastuzumab
  • Pertuzumab

However, research published in Clinical Cancer Research suggested that the molecular subtype luminal A breast cancer didn't benefit at all from adjuvant chemotherapy with Cytoxan.

Dosage and Administration

Cytoxan can be given either intravenously as a solution or by mouth in pill form. 

For IV Cytoxan, dosages and infusion frequency varies depending on multiple factors, including cancer type and body weight.

For Cytoxan tablets, the dosage is also variable and based on cancer type, weight, other treatments you may be on, and how you've responded to other treatments.

Cytoxan tablets must be taken whole. Don't ever cut, crush, or chew them.

Risks and Side Effects

The risks and side effects of Cytoxan chemotherapy include: 

  • Allergic reactions (shortness of breath, swelling of feet or ankles, rash, swollen throat)
  • Potential harm to a fetus
  • Possible infertility
  • Neutropenia (low blood count that leads to a greater risk of infection)
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritation in the mouth
  • Menstrual cycle interruptions
  • Brittle nails

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away:

  • Fever of 100.5 degrees F or higher
  • Painful or bloody urine
  • Black and sticky stools or bloody stools
  • Unusual bruises or bleeding
  • Persistent cough or pneumonia

If you're pregnant or become pregnant, talk to your doctor about alternatives to Cytoxan. Your doctor may recommend reliable contraception in order to prevent pregnancy while you're on this drug.

To help prevent kidney and bladder infections, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and urinate often. It's also recommended that you avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they can be very dehydrating for your body and exacerbate some of the effects of Cytoxan.

For pain relief, ibuprofen is considered safer alongside Cytoxan than aspirin.

Cytoxan significantly impacts your system, so getting vaccinations is usually not recommended while you're undergoing treatment.

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