Ifosfamide is the name of a drug used in chemotherapy for cancer patients. Sometimes abbreviated as IFO, it is a form of nitrogen mustard alkylating agent that is a white powder until processed into liquid form and administered intravenously. Ifosfamide is generally used to treat germ cell testicular cancer, but has been given as a treatment for bone and soft tissue sarcomas. Recently it has been used in the treatment of certain lung cancers including mesothelioma, with varying success rates in reducing the number of cancer cells present.

How It Works

Ifosfamide is an alkylating agent, therefore it interacts with a cell’s DNA and prevents it from replicating. Messenger or transfer RNA cannot relay instructions for the duplication of DNA molecules in cells that are entering metaphase, and the cell will not be able to divide into daughter cells that would normally carry the exact DNA structure of the parent cell.

The more rapidly a cell grows and divides the more effective an alkylating agent is as an inhibitor. Cancer cells tend to mature and reproduce at an extremely fast rate, and this is the main reason chemotherapy works to any degree. Other cells in the body are sometimes affected by this form of treatment, especially red and white blood cells, hair cells and cells involved with the prevention of infections. Hair loss is experienced by most people undergoing chemotherapy with ifosfamide because the cells forming at the base of the follicle do not develop fully, causing the entire hair root to die.

Side Effects

There are a number of side effects when given ifosfamide as chemotherapy treatment. These include lowered bone marrow function, fatigue, skin rash, abnormal kidney function and diarrhea. Ifosfamide interacts with many other drugs, in particular other chemotherapeutic agents or cytotoxic agents. The drug is usually administered as an outpatient procedure that is completed in less than 20-30 minutes.

Treating Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is the cause of the dangerous condition known as mesothelioma, which is a cancerous growth in the pleural lining of the lungs. Asbestos fibers, if inhaled will lie dormant for a long period of time and then begin to react with this tissue, acting as a carcinogen and causing a severe malignancy. Alkylating agents such as ifosfamide have gone through phase I and II of research testing and have been used in combination with other drugs as a chemotherapy treatment for asbestos-related cancers.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that was once used extensively in production facilities where workers had to be protected from high heat. Its insulating qualities were superb; however it is a dangerous material because of the potential for long-term exposure and inhalation of the tiny fibers of this silicate compound.