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List of Drugs Used in Cancer Treatments

written by: Nicky LaMarco • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/27/2011

There are several genres of chemotherapy and cancer drugs with hundreds of offerings within every genre. Here is an overview of some of the drugs used in cancer treatments.

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    drugs used in cancer treatments Drugs used in cancer treatments can be dangerous, such as chemotherapy. There is a long list of chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy attacks and kills the cells in the body, both normal and cancer cells. This is what makes it dangerous. It kills your normal cells along with the cancer cells.

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    Alkylating Agents

    There are five types of alkylating agents that are used to treat cancer. Alkyl sulfonates (busulfan), nitrogen mustards (mechlorethamine, chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide and melphalan), nitrosoureas (streptozocin, carmustin and lomustine), ethylenimines (thiotepa and altretamine) and triazines (dacarbazine and temozolomide). These agents directly damage DNA to prevent cancer cells from duplicating. Since they cause bone marrow damage they can actually cause acute leukemia. Alkylating agents are commonly used to treat breast, lung and ovarian cancers as well as Hodgkin disease, lymphoma, myeloma and sarcoma.

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    Anthracyclines

    This type of treatment is used in all types of cancers. Some specific drug names are epirubicin, daunorubicin, idarubicin and doxorubicin. It works by preventing the replication of cancer cells through DNA by attacking it with antibiotics that kill the enzyme. Heart damage can occur through this treatment. It is most commonly employed on tumors.

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    Antimetabolites

    Types of antimetabolites are capecitabine, cytarabine, 5-fluorouracil, gemcitabine, 6-mercaptopurine, pemetrexed, methotrexate and fludarabine. Used to treat leukemias and certain tumors, these work by attacking DNA and RNA growth.

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    Corticosteroids

    Types of steroids used in chemotherapy and anti-emetic medication treatment are prednisone, dexamethasone and methylprednisolone.

    They slow the growth of cancer cells in lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia. They also help prevent the side effects of chemotherapy like vomiting, nausea and allergic reactions to medicine.

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    Mitotic Inhibitors

    These inhibitors treat myelomas, lymphomas, lung and breast cancers and leukemias. They inhibit the protein production of cells. Examples of mitotic inhibitors are vinca alkaloids (vinblastine, vincristine and vinorelbine), epothilones (ixabepilone), taxanes (paclitaxel and docetaxel), and estramustine. These run the danger of causing peripheral nerve damage.

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    Topoisomerase Inhibitors

    By meddling with the DNA enzyme topoisomerase this inhibitor stops the production of cancer cells. Topoisomerase I inhibitors (topotecan and irinotecan) and topoisomerase II inhibitors (etoposide and teniposide) are the options here. Leukemia and gastrointestinal, lung and ovarian cancers can be treated with these inhibitors.

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    Conclusion

    It’s important to listen to a doctor you trust but also to listen to your gut — if you don’t feel right about a certain course of treatment don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. You are going through treatment so make sure you are comfortable with the decision you have made. There are seemingly countless drugs used in cancer treatments. An increasing number are being produced on a regular basis, and many of the cancer treatments are getting more effective. One day there will be a cure.

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    Resources

    "Chemotherapy Drugs - Drug Names"

    http://www.chemocare.com/bio/

    "Cancer Treatment"

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/treatment

    "How Does Chemotherapy Work?"

    http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Chemotherapy/ChemotherapyPrinciplesAnIn-depthDiscussionoftheTechniquesanditsRoleinTreatment/chemotherapy-principles-how-does-chemo-work