Daunorubicin is a chemotherapy drug that is used in the treatment of certain types of cancer including acute myeloid leukaemia and acute lymphocytic leukaemia. . It may be helpful to read the general chemotherapy information section together with this section, as it will give more advice on chemotherapy side effects.


What Daunorubicin looks like?

It is a red fluid when dissolved from a powder.

How is it given?

Daunorubicin is given as an injection or infusion (intravenous) into a peripheral cannula or via a central line.

Side effects

The side effects mentioned below may not affect everyone, as each patient’s reaction to chemotherapy is different. It will also depend on how many chemotherapy drugs you are receiving. If you experience any effects that you think are related to your chemotherapy, please discuss them with your oncology doctor or chemotherapy nurse.


You will be more prone to infection as Daunorubicin affects your white cell production from the bone marrow. This effect usually occurs about 7 days after your chemotherapy. Your white cells however do gradually recover and are usually within normal ranges for your next chemotherapy course.
You should contact your doctor or the Oncology Unit straight away if you if you have a sore throat,cough, pain passing urine, redness and swelling at e.g. at a catheter site. Or have a temperature of 38 degrees° C or greater.


You may feel lethargic and breathless due to a reduction in your red cells caused by Daunorubicin. Inform your doctor if you are feeling these effects.


Daunorubicin can also affect the production of platelets, which can cause bleeding or bruising. Inform your doctor if you notice any unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Nausea and vomiting

Daunorubicin can make you feel sick nausea   or to to be sick vomit  . Your doctor will prescribe some medications to prevent this anti-emetics  . If you continue to feel sick it is important to inform your doctor or nurse.

Sore mouth

You may develop a sore mouth or ulcers due to your chemotherapy. You will be prescribed some mouthwashes. Inform your doctor or nurse if your mouth becomes sore or you develop ulcers. You may also experience some taste changes, which will resolve after you finish your treatment.

Hair loss (alopecia)

You may lose all your hair or it may just thin out. This usually happens after your first course of chemotherapy. This is temporary and your hair will grow back.


You may feel very tired. This can last for a few months after your treatment. Inform your doctor or nurse of how you are feeling.

Loss of appetite

You may find that your appetite decreases while you are receiving chemotherapy. You should maintain a healthy diet and ask to speak to your dietician if you have any worries.

Discoloured urine

Due to the colour of the chemotherapy, your urine will be a red/orange colour for a few hours after your treatment.

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Less common side effects

Liver changes

Daunorubicin can cause some changes to your liver. You will have regular blood tests to monitor your liver function.

Skin changes

You will be more sensitive to the sun.  You should avoid the sun and wear a high sun factor during and after your treatment.

Changes to your heart

Daunorubicin can cause some damage to your heart muscle. This usually happens with continued use of the drug. You may have some tests to assess your heart function before your treatment.


You may experience some diarrhoea.  It is important to inform your doctor or nurse if you are having a lot of bowel motions in a day.

Skin changes

You may get some vein streaking where the chemotherapy is given in the arm or hand.

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Other information


It is important to discuss this with your doctor as your fertility may be affected by Dactinomycin.


It is important to use a reliable form of contraception while you are on treatment and for at least two years after your treatment has completed. It is not advised to get pregnant while on treatment as the drugs may affect the foetus.

Other medications

It is important to inform your doctor of any medications that you are taking, including over the counter medications or herbal drugs as they can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.


  • The Chemotherapy Source Book (2nd edition). M. Perry, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 1997
  • British National Formulary (53rd edition). British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, March 2007
  • Handbook of Adult Cancer Chemotherapy Schedules (2nd edition). D. Dearnaley, I. Judson and T. Root, TMG Healthcare Communications, 2002
  • Cancer Chemotherapy Handbook (2nd edition). D C Baquiran, Lippincotts, 2001

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