Doxorubicin and daunorubicin are chemotherapeutics that exert their effects through several mechanisms. First, these drugs can cause DNA strand breaks by inducing free radical formation. Second, they can insert themselves or intercalate into DNA. Third, these drugs inhibit topoisomerase II, which prevents the enzyme from unwinding or fixing knots in DNA. All of these effects enable doxorubicin and daunorubicin to target rapidly-dividing cells like cancer cells, rendering them useful as chemotherapy for both solid and liquid cancers.
However, these drugs do not come without their fair share of side effects. Besides myelosuppression and alopecia which are seen in nearly all cancer drugs, important side effects to watch out for include cardiotoxicity. Dexrazoxane can be given in conjunction with these drugs to decrease the risk of heart damage.