Chemotherapy is a medical treatment process that involves treating diseases by killing cells with chemicals. Drugs used for cancer chemotherapy are aimed at certain processes in cells that divide and grow rapidly. The drugs stop the cells from dividing, resulting in the death of cells that are cancerous. The unfortunate aspect of these chemotherapy drugs is that they are not specific. In other words, they also kill healthy cells, like those cells that have to do with hair growth, as well as cancerous cells.
For treating mesothelioma, there are several different chemotherapy drugs that can be used. Most of them are accompanied by common side effects like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and hair loss. They can also make the patient more susceptible to infections. The doctor should be made aware of all side effects experienced when undergoing chemotherapy.
Despite the side effects, mesothelioma patients frequently consider undergoing chemotherapy. The patient and the family should attempt to fully understand the many different options when it comes to chemotherapy as well as other treatments so that they can make the best choice for their situation.
About Chemotherapy Treatment
The best chemotherapy option for each case of mesothelioma must be based on several factors like the type of mesothelioma it is, what stage the disease is in, and what other treatments the patient is currently undergoing. The age and general health of the patient should also be considered when deciding on a treatment plan involving chemotherapy.
While there are more than 100 chemotherapy drugs available, only a certain few of these are right for treatment of mesothelioma. Doctors will normally suggest combination therapies for their patients with mesothelioma. This means that two different chemotherapy drugs will be used, one following the other. These combination treatment plans have proven to work the best for mesothelioma patients.
The patient’s oncologist will discuss all options thoroughly with the patient before making a decision and beginning treatment. The doctor will require a complete medical history from the patient, including a list of all over-the-counter and prescription medications that the patient takes. This information helps ensure that the right chemotherapy drug is used for treatment.
Currently, the most common combination of chemotherapy drugs to treat mesothelioma is the use of pemetrexed (brand name Alimta) and cisplatin. Other drugs that have been used to treat this type of cancer include:
- Gemcitabine (brand name Gemzar)
- Doxorubicin (brand name Adriamycin)
- Epirubicin (brand name Ellence)
- Cyclophosphamide (brand name Cytoxan)
- Ifosfamide (brand name Ifex)
Of these, only Alimta is approved by the FDA specifically to treat mesothelioma. These drugs are administered by IV or in pill form, although there is new method known as hyperthermic chemotherapy in which the drugs are heated with the hope of improving their effectiveness.
There is no treatment that has been proven to cure mesothelioma, but chemotherapy is capable of controlling the symptoms and shrinking the tumors. It is used to help improve the quality of life of the patient. The combination treatments have especially been successful in providing longer rates of survival to patients. In the mean time, researchers are still striving to find new and better ways to fight this aggressive form of cancer.