What is Epothilone?

Jennifer Long

An epothilone is a part of a class of cancer drugs. Epothilones are made from a bacteria. These cancer treatments work similar to taxanes by interfering with a specific globular cell protein called tubulin.

Epothilione is usually mixed with one or more chemotherapy drugs as part of a drug cocktail.
Epothilione is usually mixed with one or more chemotherapy drugs as part of a drug cocktail.

A cancer cell, like other cells, contains microtubules. These microtubules help form the shape of the cell. They also aid in mitosis and cellular movement. Tubulin is the protein that helps microtubules form.

Epothilone is administered intravenously.
Epothilone is administered intravenously.

Similar to many other cancer medications, an epothilone works on a cellular level. The goal is to prevent cancer cells from both growing and creating new cancer cells that will ultimately spread. Epothilones prevent microtubules in cancer cells from performing properly. They bind with the tubulin to keep microtubules from forming, and stop existing microtubules from carrying out mitosis and creating new cancer cells.

All cells have a life cycle. Before they die, they will split and form new cells. The growth of new cancer cells causes rapid acceleration of the disease. An epothilone is used as a type of chemotherapy. It stops the growth of new cells, but also aids in quicker death of existing cancer cells.

Epothilones are usually mixed with one or more other chemotherapy drugs. The other drugs will vary for each specific type of cancer. By combining the right type of epothilone with specific chemotherapy medicines, doctors can create a more targeted treatment that is best for each individual patient and cancer. The chemotherapy cocktail is then administered through an intravenous (IV) tube.

There are two separate sets of side effects that may be experienced with chemotherapy, but not all patients will experience both sets. Chemotherapy drug side effects include hair loss, fatigue, and nausea. Some people may also experience a decrease in white blood cells and/or red blood cells.

An epothilone can cause different side effects, in addition to or in place of the ones experienced with other chemotherapy drugs. Patients most commonly experience weakness and joint pain. Rare side effects can include mouth sores and headaches. Many symptoms can be reduced and they will generally subside when chemotherapy treatments have been completed.

Chemotherapy treatment, regardless of whether it is combined with an epothilone, carries a risk of damaging healthy cells in addition to the cancerous cells. The drugs do not posses the ability to distinguish between a normal cell and a cancer cell. When cancer cells are present, however, they are often in a higher concentration than the healthy cells. The result is that more cancer cells are targeted and die than normal cells.

Epothilone, like other chemotherapy treatments, may cause temporary hair loss.
Epothilone, like other chemotherapy treatments, may cause temporary hair loss.

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