Cancer treatment utilizes medications classified as antineoplastic -- anti-cancer -- and cytotoxic -- destructive to cells (Ref1, Pg1). Treatment with these medications is commonly known as chemotherapy, and over 100 medications are in use today (Ref1, Pg2). These medications may damage the DNA of cancer cells, inhibit new DNA from forming, or stop the splitting of one cell into two cells (Ref3, Cancer Chemotherapy). Some medications may act in more than one way as well (Ref1). This article focuses on the various types of cytotoxic medications available.
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These medications directly damage cell DNA, the genetic material required for cells to grow and reproduce (Ref1, Pg5).
DNA and another type of cell material called RNA are made up of molecules that act like genetic building blocks. Antimetabolite medications interfere with these so-called building blocks thus preventing replication of cancer cells (Ref1, Pg5).
Inhibitors of Mitosis
Mitosis is the process by which the genetic material of a cell replicates and splits to form two cells from one original cell (Ref2) 1. Medications are available that halt cell replication at this step, leading to cell death (Ref1, Pg7).
Topoisomerases are molecules within cells that aid copying of the DNA before a cell can replicate (Ref1, Pg7). Examples of topoisomerase inhibitors include etoposide (Etopophos), teniposide (Vumon), and mitoxantrone (Ref1, Pg7).
Antimetabolite medications interfere with these so-called building blocks thus preventing replication of cancer cells (Ref1, Pg5). Examples of medications that stop mitosis are vinblastine, vincristine (Vincasar PFS, Marqibo) and pacitaxel (Abraxane, Onxol) (Ref3, Categories of Chemotherapy Drugs).These drugs are used to treat breast and lung cancers, myelomas, lymphomas, and leukemias (Ref1, Pg7) 1. Medications are available that halt cell replication at this step, leading to cell death (Ref1, Pg7).
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