Chemotherapy drugs react differently to radiation while in water

Cancer treatment often involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy uses medication to stop cancer cells reproducing, but the medication affects the entire body. Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill ...

A homing beacon for chemotherapy drugs

Killing tumor cells while sparing their normal counterparts is a central challenge of cancer chemotherapy. If scientists could put a "homing beacon" in tumors, they could attract these medicines and reduce side effects caused ...

'Paintable' chemotherapy shrinks skin tumors in mice

Skin acts as the first line of defense against pathogens and other harmful material from outside the body. Yet this barrier also excludes some beneficial drugs that could treat skin diseases. Now, researchers have taken the ...

Cancer-fighting drugs also help plants fight disease

Cancer-fighting drugs used on humans can help plants fight disease as well. That discovery, by two Washington State University plant pathologists, could help scientists develop new pathways for plants to battle infection, ...

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, in its most general sense, refers to treatment of disease by chemicals that kill cells, both good and bad, but specifically those of micro-organisms or cancerous tumours. In popular usage, it refers to antineoplastic drugs used to treat cancer or the combination of these drugs into a cytotoxic standardized treatment regimen. In its non-oncological use, the term may also refer to antibiotics (antibacterial chemotherapy). In that sense, the first modern chemotherapeutic agent was Paul Ehrlich's arsphenamine, an arsenic compound discovered in 1909 and used to treat syphilis. This was later followed by sulfonamides discovered by Domagk and penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming.

Most commonly, chemotherapy acts by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of cancer cells. This means that it also harms cells that divide rapidly under normal circumstances: cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles; this results in the most common side effects of chemotherapy—myelosuppression (decreased production of blood cells), mucositis (inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract) and alopecia (hair loss).

Other uses of cytostatic chemotherapy agents (including the ones mentioned below) are the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis and the suppression of transplant rejections (see immunosuppression and DMARDs). Newer anticancer drugs act directly against abnormal proteins in cancer cells; this is termed targeted therapy.

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