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What Is Chemotherapy Made Of?

By China Zmuida ; Updated July 27, 2017

Chemotherapy is a form of treatment that uses lab created or natural agents to kill cancer cells growing within your body. When chemotherapy is used, various side effects can result as as well as complications. Even though many forms of chemotherapy treatments use natural plant alkaloids, the intended result of chemotherapy medication is to seek out and destroy cells. It is because of this cell death that creates what effects you may experience from the chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy History

Accidental exposure to a group of military individuals during World War II showed that these men had a lowered blood cell count. It was then believed that perhaps an agent within the mustard gas would have results on cancer cells. According to the American Cancer Society, patients who suffered from advanced lymphomas were injected intravenously with mustard gas to determine the effects of the gas on their cancer. Though the effects proved to be beneficial, improvements were only temporary. It was then that scientists studied other components that could offer affective results on those who developed cancer.

Plant Alkaloids

Plant alkaloids are designed to attack your cancer at a certain stage of your cancer. Various forms of plant alkaloids are used in chemotherapy medications. Such alkaloids include vinca alkaloids derived from the periwinkle plant. Another type of alkaloid are the taxanes, which stem from the Pacific Yew tree. According to the Mesothelioma Resource Center, vinca alkaloids and taxanes help to prevent your cells from replicating and multiplying. Cancer cell death results from taking chemotherapy medications derived from plant alkaloids. Some common brand names include Vinblastine, Vinorelbine, Paclitaxel and Docetaxel.

Antitumor Antibodies

According to Chemo Care, a site presented by Scott Hamilton, antitumor antibodies refer to medications that use fungi derived from Streptomyces. Such medications are used during all phases of your cancer. Antitumor medications work like other chemotherapy treatments in destroying cancer cells, as well as trying to inhibit the growth of new cancer cells. Examples include Mitomycin, Daunorubicin and Dactinomycin.


Antimetabolites are a type of medication that consists of almost the same material your metabolites are made of. Your body contains metabolites to break down food and use the food as stored energy. The food can be converted into proteins, DNA or other cell structures within your body. Antimetabolites are much like your metabolites. However, when an antimetabolite invades a cancer cell, the cell is incapable of dividing and multiplying. Some treatments include Methotrexate, Fludarabine and Foxuridine.

Effects of Chemotherapy

Not everyone is expected to experience the same symptoms caused by chemotherapy. Side effects can be vast and varied, and you may or may not suffer from such effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common effects caused by chemotherapy treatment can include hair loss, nausea and vomiting, constipation, appetite loss and fatigue. Your physician can discuss the benefits of chemotherapy, as well as possible side effects and complications, such as heart issues, nerve damage, or the slight possibility of developing a second cancer. Receiving chemotherapy always outweighs any potential effects and risks as a way of treating cancer.

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