There are currently more than 100 types of chemotherapy drugs on the market. Ingredients vary widely and generally include either chemical, plant, or synthetic components.
There are currently more than 100 types of chemotherapy drugs on the market. The type of chemotherapy a person receives depends on several factors, including:
- the type, location, and stage of the condition being treated
- the goal of the treatment
- the health and medical history of the person receiving the chemotherapy
Because there are so many different types of cancer, scientists are constantly looking for treatments to effectively target specific cancer types. This has led to an
This article reviews what we know about chemotherapy, including what it does, what it’s made of, and how it works.
Chemotherapy drugs are grouped by their chemical structure. These groups allow doctors to make informed decisions on which drugs will work best together to manage and remove cancerous cells.
|How they work
|damages cell DNA and prevents it from making copies of itself
|can cause leukemia
|interferes with cell DNA by acting as a substitute for DNA and RNA building blocks and prevents it from making copies of itself
|can cause liver damage
|interferes with enzymes that copy DNA during the cell cycle and bind with DNA, which prevents the cell from copying itself
|can damage the heart
|damages enzymes that make proteins that are needed for cell reproduction
|can cause nerve damage
|reduces the body’s immune response, helps mitigate pain, and manages side effects and symptoms of other chemotherapies when used together
|can prevent nausea, vomiting and severe allergies
|interferes with enzymes that allow the DNA to be copied, preventing the cell from copying itself
|can increase the risk of a secondary cancer
Ingredients for chemotherapy treatments vary widely and generally include either chemical, plant, or synthetic ingredients:
- Alkylating agents: Ingredients for this type of chemotherapy were discovered during wartime, when the chemical weapon
mustard gas (sulfur mustard)was found to have antitumor properties.
- Antimetabolites: Antimetabolites use natural compounds, such as
fludarabineand cladribine, that scientists have altered to help manage cancer.
- Mitotic and topoisomerase inhibitors: These chemotherapies are plant-based and come from plant alkaloids, which damage the enzymes in a cell and prevent the cell from copying itself.
- Antitumor antibiotics: This type of chemotherapy is derived from naturally occurring fungus, bacteria, soil, or other microorganisms.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are synthetic version of hormones produced by the adrenal glands. They’re often prescribed alongside chemotherapy to help manage the side effects, especially nausea and vomiting.
The way chemotherapy works depends on the type of chemotherapy administered. Not all chemotherapy treatments work the same way.
Chemotherapy medications may be given intravenously (via intravenous [IV] infusion), orally, or topically.
Chemotherapy medications target cells that are cancerous or that are growing too fast and spreading to new parts of your body. They aim to eliminate the cancer cells but can’t distinguish between healthy and sick cells. This means the chemotherapy often ends up killing healthy cells, as well.
The ingredients for many chemotherapy drugs work in your body by reducing or removing cell function.
In traditional chemotherapy, both healthy and sick cells are targeted, which can leave your body vulnerable to protection. In other forms of chemotherapy, there are additional physical side effects from treatment.
The most toxic forms of chemotherapy, which can lead to irreversible toxicity, include alkylating agents, topoisomerase inhibitors, and antimetabolites.
Some of the more common side effects of chemotherapy can include:
Some of the potentially
- secondary cancer
- heart damage
- nerve damage
- liver damage
- severe allergies
When administering chemotherapy, doctors take
This may include having you wear specific types of clothing or other protective equipment. You may need to wear gloves while taking oral administrations. Steps may also need to be taken to lower the chance that others come into contact with the chemotherapy. This includes:
- cleaning laundry that has bodily fluids on it
- flushing toilets twice
- keeping living areas clean
Though treatments for cancer have improved significantly over the last decade, there’s still much to learn about chemotherapy and how it affects a person receiving this type of treatment.
The type and dosage of chemotherapy assigned to a person is based on several factors, including the health and history of the person and the type and stage of cancer.
To make the process of prescribing chemotherapy easier, doctors have grouped chemotherapy options according to their properties. This allows them to make more personalized and customized chemotherapy regimens that will be more effective for treating someone’s cancer.
Despite the side effects that happen with most types of chemotherapy,