The anthracycline antibiotics comprise a group of cytotoxic compounds with wide-ranging activity against human malignancies. They are used extensively for curative, adjuvant and palliative therapy, both as single agents and in combination regimens. They produce a number of adverse effects, some of which are shared by other cytotoxic drugs. The most important adverse effect is cardiotoxicity, which is unique to this class of compounds. Strategies have been devised to circumvent these adverse effects, including the development of less toxic analogues, alterations in scheduling, the addition of cardioprotectant agents and methods of monitoring for cardiac abnormalities.