Anti-cancer Drugs (Chemotherapy Drugs)

Chemotherapy drugs are often used to treat most types of cancer. In fact, chemotherapy remains the most common cancer treatment for now. The medications work by killing the rapidly growing cancerous cells. The usage and selection of the drugs totally depends upon the type of cancer. Sometimes only one drug is used and sometimes there is a combination of many drugs. As for now, there are more than 60 chemotherapy drugs which are used for treating different types of cancers.

Most Common Chemotherapy Drugs

The list of anti-cancer drugs is increasing rapidly, and each type of cancer has its own group of medications. For example, chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer are cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, paclitaxel, etc. and chemotherapy drugs for lung cancer are carboplatin, etoposide, gemcitabine, etc. Similarly for every cancer, there are a few specific drugs which are used. Apart from these, drugs like methotrexate can be used for cancers of the breast, lung, blood, bone, and lymph system. These drugs can be given orally, intravenously, intrathecally or topically. The basic function of these drugs is to kill the rapidly growing cells which are the cancerous cells. But at the same time, it damages the functioning of the other rapidly growing cells too like white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Hence all the chemotherapy drugs have side effects. These chemotherapy side effects may vary according to the dosage, type of cancer, type of drug and the person’s resistance power. Here is a list of some of the commonly used chemotherapy drugs.



Indications Common Side Effects


Carboplatin (Paraplatin) Indicated in the treatment ofcancer of the head, neck, lung and ovary


hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, decreased blood cell count, etc
Cisplatin (Platinol, Platinol-AQ) Indicated in the treatment of of testicle cancer, bladder cancer and ovary cancer and others


allergic reactions, decreased blood cell count, ringing in ears, nausea, vomiting, kidney damage, etc
Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) Indicated in the treatment ofbreast cancer, lymphoma and ovarian carcinoma


nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fertility problems, lungs damage, heart problems, decreased blood cell count, etc…
Docetaxel (Taxotere) Indicated in the treatment ofprostate cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer


diarrhea, hair thinning, rash, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell count, numbness in hands and feet, etc.
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) Indicated in the treatment ofmultiple myeloma, lymphoma and breast cancer…


Mouth ulcer, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, heart damage, decreased blood cell count, etc…
Etoposide (VePesid) Indicated in the treatment oftesticle cancers, lung cancer, leukemia and lymphoma hair loss, nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, low blood pressure, decreased appetite, decreased blood cell count, mouth ulcer, symptoms of flu


Fluorouracil (5-FU) Indicated in the treatment ofbreast cancer, colon cancer,stomach cancer, head and neck cancers including mouth cancer


photo sensitivity, mouth ulcer, dry skin, diarrhea, decreased blood cell count, etc.
Gemcitabine (Gemzar) Indicated in the treatment ofbreast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer, and others


nausea, vomiting, fever, rash, decreased blood cell count, flu like symptoms etc.
Methotrexate (Folex, Mexate, Amethopterin) Indicated in the treatment of lung cancer, blood cancers, bone cancer, breast cancer and lymphoma  or cancers of thelymphatic system


dizziness, headache, skin rash, photo sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, kidney and liver damage, decreased blood cell count, etc.
Paclitaxel (Taxol) Indicated in the treatment of lung cancer, breast cancer, ovary cancer and sometimes other cancers allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, taste change, joint pain, numbness and tingling in fingertips and toes, allergic reactions, decreased blood cell count etc.

Other Chemotherapy Drugs

  • Erlotinib (Tarceva)
  • Imatinib mesylate (Gleevec)
  • Irinotecan (Camptosar)
  • Sorafinib (Nexavar)
  • Sunitinib (Sutent)
  • Topotecan (Hycamtin)
  • Vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar PFS)
  • Vinblastine (Velban)
  • Rituximab (Rituxan)
  • Bleomycin (is an antibiotic)

These are some of anti-cancer medications commonly used in the treatment of cancer. Although these chemo drugs can be successful in the treatment of cancer, the lifestyle of the patient also plays a major role in the survival. It is also important to know that they can cause dangerous side effects which can be fetal in fragile patients. To avoid complications, it is necessary to live a healthy lifestyle and follow all the recommendation of your health care provider.

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