Chemotherapy Drugs (including combination therapy & radiation)
Chemotherapy drugs (also known as chemotherapeutic agents or cytotoxic agents) are drugs that destroy cancerous cells and tissues.
At the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, we offer the latest chemotherapeutic agents for treating all forms of cancer. We are the only cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Central and South Texas.
Our experienced oncologists have a deep understanding of the more than 100 chemotherapy drugs available. Knowing how these agents works is essential to choosing:
- The most effective drug (or combination of drugs) for your specific type of cancer
- What order and how often you should be given these drugs
- A treatment plan that will result in as few side effects as possible
Learn more about chemotherapy at the cancer center.
Types of chemotherapy drugs
Chemotherapy drugs can be divided into several groups based on how they work. Some drugs may belong to more than one group.
- Alkylating Agents: alkylating agents damage DNA to prevent the cancer cell from reproducing.
- Antimetabolites: antimetabolites are a class of drugs that interfere with DNA and RNA growth by substituting for the normal building blocks of RNA and DNA.
- Anti-Tumor Antibiotics: anti-tumor antibiotics interfere with enzymes involved in DNA replication. These drugs work in all phases of the cell cycle.
- Topoisomerase Inhibitors: these drugs interfere with enzymes called topoisomerases, which help separate the strands of DNA so they can be copied. By interfering with these enzymes, these drugs can prevent cancer cells from reproducing.
- Mitotic Inhibitors: mitotic inhibitors are often derived from natural products like plants. They can stop cancer cells from splitting and duplicating (mitosis) or interfere with enzymes the cancers cells need to reproduce.
- Corticosteroids: Steroids are substances made naturally by our bodies. Corticosteroids are made by your adrenal glands, the small glands found just above the kidneys. Corticosteroids may be used to treat your cancer directly or to reduce inflammation and help reduce side effects of cancer treatment.
Learn more about the specific types of chemotherapy drugs.
Other types of cancer drugs offered at the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center
Other drugs and biological treatments are used to treat cancer but are not usually considered chemotherapy. They often have less serious side effects than those commonly caused by chemotherapy drugs. This is because they work mainly on cancer cells and mostly avoid normal cells. Many of these therapies are used along with chemotherapy. They include:
- Hormone therapy: These drugs are used to slow the growth of breast cancer, prostate cancer and uterine cancers—types of cancers that normally grow in response to natural hormones in the body. Hormone therapy works by preventing cancer cells from using the hormone they need to grow or by preventing your body from making those hormones. Learn more about novel hormonal agents at the cancer center.
- Immunotherapy: Some drugs are given to people with cancer to stimulate their natural immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Compared with other forms of cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, immunotherapy is still fairly new. Learn more about immunotherapy at the cancer center.
- Targeted therapies: This is a huge area of focus for researchers at UT Health San Antonio and elsewhere. As we learn more about the way cancer cells work, new drugs are developed that attack cancer cells more directly than traditional chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can be used as part of your primary treatment, or they may be used after treatment to maintain remission or decrease the chance of recurrence. Examples of targeted therapies include:
- Imatinib (Gleevec®)
- Gefitinib (Iressa®)
- Sunitinib (Sutent®)
- Bortezomib (Velcade®)
- Differentiating agents: These drugs act on the cancer cells by making them mature into non-cancerous, normal cells. Examples of these drugs include:
- Tretinoin (ATRA or Atralin®)
- Bexarotene (Targretin®)
- Arsenic trioxide (Arsenox®)
Make an appointment
To request an appointment or to make a referral to one of our physicians, please call 210-450-1000.
For information about cancer treatment or cancer trials, please call our Cancer Information Line: 1-800-340-2872.