Cancer Home > Epirubicin

Epirubicin is commonly used for the treatment of breast cancer. The drug, which works by killing rapidly multiplying cancer cells, is generally used in combination with other chemotherapy medications. The drug is administered through an IV, usually at a healthcare provider's office, an "infusion center," or at a hospital. Side effects may include nausea and vomiting, leukopenia, and hair loss.

What Is Epirubicin?

Epirubicin hydrochloride (Ellence®) is a prescription medication used to treat breast cancer. It is part of a group of chemotherapy medications called anthracyclines. Epirubicin is used in combination with other chemotherapy medications (in a chemotherapy "regimen").
(Click What Is Epirubicin Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes This Drug?

Epirubicin is currently made by Pfizer, Inc.

How Does It Work?

As mentioned, epirubicin is part of a group of medications called anthracyclines. Anthracyclines kill cells (including cancer cells and normal cells) by working in several ways. Epirubicin binds to DNA in cells, changing the shape of the DNA and causing other problems with it. This medication can damage the membranes (outer coating) of cells and may damage other parts of cells as well.
While epirubicin can kill both healthy and cancerous cells, it has a greater effect on cells that are multiplying rapidly. Generally, cancer cells multiply more rapidly than healthy cells and are, therefore, more affected by the medication.

When and How to Take Epirubicin

General considerations for when and how to take epirubicin include the following:
  • Epirubicin is given through an IV.
  • Most people receive their injection at their healthcare provider's office, a hospital, or at an "infusion center."
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. Epirubicin will not work as well if you stop taking it before your healthcare provider recommends.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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