These medicines are active in the M-Phase.  In the nucleus of the dividing cell they bind to the microtubules and stop reproduction.  Scientists call these cytoskeletal disruptors or microtubule-targeting agents.    In addition to their reaction with microtubules, taxanes inhibit angiogenesis.

The name taxane comes from taxus, which is a genus of tree (the yew trees).  In addition to taxanes, other natural substances used in chemotherapy include trabectedin and the vinca alkaloids.  The vinca alkaloids are also considered mitotic inhibitors but the vinca alkaloids prevent of the assembly or microtubules while the taxanes inhibit mitosis by preventing the degradation of the microtubules when they are supposed to degrade.

Three taxanes are approved in the US for cancer treatment.


Brand/Trade Names: Taxol, Abraxane

Manufacturers: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Accord Healthcare, Arch Pharmalabs,  Alchem International Private Ltd, Aspire Lifesciences Pvt Ltd

Formula: C47H51NO14

Mechanism: Mitotic Inhibitor

Class: Taxane

Administration: Intraveneous

Notes: First discovered in the bark of the Pacific Yew tree.  Now made by biotechnology.  One of the most famous chemo drugs.  Often paired with other medicines as part of combination chemotherapy.  First approved by the FDA in 1992.   Used in treatment of breast, ovarian, lung, bladder, prostate, melanoma, esophageal cancers.   More on this medicine.

Paclitaxel molecule, from National Cancer Institute


Brand/Trade Names: Taxotere

Manufacturers: Sanofi Chimie, Accord Healthcare, Arch Pharmalabs,  Alchem International Private Ltd, Aspen Biopharma Labs

Formula: C43H53NO14

Mechanism: Mitotic Inhibitor

Class: Taxane

Administration: Intraveneous

Notes: Semisynthetic analogue of paclitaxel.  First approved by the FDA in 1996.  Used in treatment of breast, prostate, stomach cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer.


Brand/Trade Names: Jevtana

Manufacturers: Sanofi Aventis Deutschland Gmbh, Hangzhou Longshine Bio-Tech Co., Hanways Chempharm Co.,  Hetero Drugs Limited, Indena

Formula: C45H57NO14

Mechanism: Anti-microtubule agent

Class: Taxane

Administration: Intravenous

Notes:  Approved by the FDA in 2010.  Used in treatment of prostate cancer.