Paclitaxel is a cancer (antineoplastic) medication. Paclitaxel interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their growth and spread in the body. Paclitaxel is used in the treatment breast, ovary and lung cancers, and AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma.
Paclitaxel is originally obtained from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia. This species of yew takes decades to grow and the current process of drug extraction destroys the tree. Recently, the Pacific yew was declared an endangered species due to the species' lengthy maturation time combined with the high demand for the drug and excessive harvesting techniques used to produce it.
Paclitaxel may be one of the most important anticancer agents to be developed over the pasttwo decades. With its unique mechanism of action as an inducer of tubulin assembly,paclitaxel has demonstrated impressive antitumor activity in patients with breast, lung (both non-small cell and small cell), head and neck, and advanced and platinum-refractory ovarian carcinomas.