important new uses of chemotherapy drugs hold promise for controlling
certain cancers. And new drugs or combinations of drugs, as well as
new delivery techniques, are helping to improve the quality of life
for people with cancer. "It used to be that doctors were thrilled
to get two or three new drugs to fight cancer in any given year. Over
the past one to two years, there have been four to five new drugs
every quarter. Many of these drugs are targeted chemotherapy agents
and many are also given orally," says Dr. Jean Peliska, medical
oncologist with Aurora Advanced Healthcare.
chemotherapy drugs attack certain aspects of the way cancer cells
grow, or attack a particular target on cancer cells. "This
concept is not new, but in the last several years, there have been
increasing numbers of these drugs. The cancer can be tested for
specific markers that allow specific chemotherapy agents do the work
against the cancer. The hope is then to kill off the cancer cells
while causing as little damage as possible to the normal cells,"
Peliska explains. These treatments can be tailored to each patient
Also exciting is
that new uses for older, approved drugs are being discovered, Peliska
says. "For example, Hercepton has been used for years to treat
breast cancer. It has now been found to be useful in some stomach
cancers. Gleevec, a drug that revolutionized treatment for Chronic
Myelogenous Leukemia, is now also used for some sarcomas and rare
blood disorders," she explains.
While it is
common to think of receiving chemotherapy intravenously, oral drugs
are becoming increasingly available, making them more convenient and
attractive to patients. "There are oral medications for some
forms of leukemia, breast cancer, lung, colon, kidney and prostate
cancer. They are easier to take, but donít necessarily have fewer
side effects," Peliska explains.