Common Cancer Drugs | Medical News Today
Doctors classify cancer drugs based on how they work in the body.
- alkylating agents
- anti-tumor antibiotics
- plant alkaloids
- various drugs that do not fit into any of these categories
The sections below examine each of these types of medications in more detail.
Here are some examples of alkylating agents:
Doctors mainly use alkylating agents to treat slow-growing cancers because they are less effective against rapidly dividing cells. For example, doctors can use these drugs to treat:
Alkylating agents damage the DNA of cancer cells, but they can also affect cells in the bone marrow, which can cause leukemia.
The risk of developing leukemia is small, but it increases with larger doses of alkylating agents. The risk of developing leukemia is highest around
Nitrosoureas are a subcategory of alkylating agents which
Nitrosoureas work by attaching themselves to the DNA strands of cancer cells. This prevents them from dividing.
Here are some examples of nitrosoureas:
Antimetabolites work by convincing cancer cells to
Here are some examples of antimetabolites:
Antimetabolites are generally effective in treating:
Antitumor antibiotics are chemicals that interfere with enzymes that promote cancer cell growth.
Anthracyclines are a type of anti-tumor antibiotic. They bind to the DNA of
- liposomal doxorubicin
There are also several anti-tumor antibiotics that are not anthracyclines, including bleomycin, dactinomycin, and mitoxantrone.
Doctors can use anti-tumor antibiotics to treat:
This side effect is rare, but it can occur with high doses of the drug. For this reason, doctors usually limit the amount of anti-tumor antibiotics a person can take.
These are drugs that come from plants and have
Mitotic inhibitors, for example, are a class of plant alkaloids that prevent cancer cells from replicating or prevent enzymes from creating proteins to support reproduction in cancer cells. Some examples of these drugs include taxanes and vinca alkaloids.
Topoisomerase inhibitors are a class of plant alkaloids that also have different names depending on the enzyme they work on.
Topoisomerase I inhibitors, for example,
Plant alkaloids are useful for treating several cancers, including:
Some possible side effects include:
These are synthetic versions of natural hormones that can reduce inflammation and treat cancer.
Some corticosteroids useful in the treatment of cancer include prednisone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone. Their anti-inflammatory properties can reduce nausea, vomiting, and appetite problems associated with chemotherapy.
Some possible side effects of corticosteroids include:
There are also several alternative therapies for cancer. The following sections examine some of them in more detail.
Cancer cells grow, divide, and spread throughout the body based on instructions they receive from proteins. Targeted therapies attack these proteins and prevent them from working effectively. They can help treat cancer in several ways, depending on the type of cancer.
The body’s immune system usually searches for and kills unusual cells around the body. Doctors use
This uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Doctors use a machine to emit radiation from outside the body or place a radiation device inside the body. This option can also cause side effects, including fatigue and skin irritation.
Doctors sometimes recommend surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. This is usually when the cancer is localized and has not spread to other parts of the body.