Class of medications

Taxanes are poisonous alkaloids produced by Yew plants.

The chemical structure of paclitaxel.

Alkaloids are natural basic chemical compounds which contain nitrogen atoms.[1] The name comes from the word alkaline and was used to describe any alkaline containing nitrogen.

Alkaloids are made by a large variety of organisms, but taxanes are produced only by plants of the genus Taxus.

Taxanes work mainly by disrupting the function of cell microtubules. Microtubules are essential to cell division, so taxanes are essentially mitotic inhibitors. This explains why taxanes have been used to produce chemotherapy drugs.[2]


  1. IUPAC. Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book"). Compiled by A.D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford 1997. XML on-line corrected version: (2006-) created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN 0-9678550-9-8. doi:10.1351/goldbook.
  2. Takimoto CH, Calvo E. "Principles of oncologic pharmacotherapy" in Pazdur R, Wagman LD, Camphausen KA, Hoskins WJ (Eds) Cancer management: a multidisciplinary approach. 11th ed. 2008.