Basic Pharmacology And Physiology Of Anti-Cancer Drugs

“Cancer” is the term we give to a large group of diseases that vary in type and location but have one thing in common: abnormal cells growing out of control. Under normal circumstances the number and growth of all our cells is a highly controlled mechanism. But when the control signals in one of these cells goes wrong, and its life cycle becomes disturbed, it divides and divides. It continues multiplying uncontrollably, and the result of this accumulation of abnormal cells is a mass of cells called a “cancer”. The drugs used to treat cancer are Anti cancer drugs, when we hear about Anticancer drugs, most of us immediately think of chemotherapy. So there is now a whole range of different cancer drug treatments as cancer treatment options on offer to patients which are not chemotherapy and so do not act indiscriminately against rapidly dividing cells, but are instead purpose built, tailor made and ocused, targeted, with purpose ranging from hormone therapies to substances that strengthen the bones (bisphosphonates) to drugs that work with the immune system. Hormone Therapies, Steroids, The latest anti-cancer drugs are called Biologics.

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The drugs can be divided into three simple groups: the cytotoxic drugs, the hormones, and the signal transduction inhibitors. All of the alkylating agents, antibiotics, antimetabolites, and miscellaneous drugs are cytotoxic drugs—they kill cells, particularly dividing cells. Therefore, all of the following terminology and general principles apply to the cytotoxic drugs. The hormonal agents are used for tumors of the hormonally sensitive tissues, such as breast and prostate. Targeted therapies have revolutionized cancer treatment by targeting fewer components within a human cell, thereby promising better efficacy and lower side effects compared to chemotherapy.

Cytotoxic drugs—drugs which block cell replication

  • Alkylating agents, including nitrogen mustards and nitrosoureas
  • Antimetabolites, including folate antagonists, purine and pyrimidine analogues
  • Antibiotics and other natural products, including anthracyclines and vinca alkaloids
  • Antibodies—to improve specificity
  • Other cytotoxic drugs

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy work by causing irreversible DNA damage. Cancer cells are unable to repair this damage, and die. The downside is that the therapies cannot be targeted only to cancer cells, and cause significant damage to healthy cells as well. This causes well-known short-term side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, hair loss and susceptibility to infection, as well as long-term effects such as infertility and increased risk of other cancers developing.

Chemotherapy, also known as chemo or anticancer medication, is medication that is used to destroy, kill, shrink, or slow the growth of cancer cells. There are over 100 different chemo drugs. Some cancers only need one kind of chemotherapy drug to treat, while others may need to be used in combination with surgery and/or radiation.

The main goal of chemotherapy is to:

  • Eliminate cancer cells
  • Shrink the tumor
  • Prevent cancer from spreading
  • Relieve symptoms from cancer

Chemotherapy can be given through:

  • Intravenous (IV)
  • By mouth (pill or liquid),
  • Injection
  • Rubbed into the skin as a cream
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Treatments usually happen at the cancer clinic, and patients can go home that same day. Treatments are given in cycles: could be given daily, weekly, monthly, and continuously by an at-home pump. The duration of your treatments vary, it can take a few minutes, several hours, or a few days.

Each medication comes with potential side effects. There are several side effects in chemotherapy, but you will not experience all the potential effects. Each circumstance is different. These may not happen to everyone. Your nurse and care team will discuss the specific side effects related to your medication.

The side effects may include:

  • Mouth Sores
  • Sensory changes
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Taste changes
  • Reproductive/Hormonal changes
  • Skin changes
  • Constipation
  • Nausea & Vomiting
  • High blood sugars
  • Chemo fog
  • Hair Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty coping
  • Change in your blood counts:
    • Fever & Infection
    • Thrombocytopenia
    • Anemia

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to boost or alter a person’s immune system. These drugs are used with certain types of cancer to help a patient’s immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. In Hormone therapy Drugs work on different actions of hormones that make some cancers grow. These drugs are used to slow the growth of certain breast, prostate, and endometrial (uterine) cancers, which normally grow in response to natural sex hormones in the body. They work by making the cancer cells unable to use the hormone they need to grow, or by preventing the body from making the hormone.

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