October 18, 2016

Chemotherapy is drug treatment for cancers or tumors. The goal of chemotherapy is to kill as many of the tumor cells as possible and to put remaining tumor cells into a non-dividing, sleeping state for as long as possible to slow the growth of the tumor.

It is most commonly prescribed in combination with surgery and radiation. It may also be the initial treatment or used alone to treat recurring tumors. Depending on the type and tumor grade, it is taken in pill form orally or by injection (IV).

Drugs Approved to Treat Brain Tumors

These drugs are approved by the FDA for use in adult brain tumors. The drug names link to the National Cancer Institute’s drug information summary that includes more information about the use of the drug, research results and ongoing clinical trials. There may be drugs used in brain tumors that are not listed here.

Source: National Cancer Institute

A patient may receive one chemotherapy drug at a time or in combination with different drugs at the same time.

For more information on the treatment of specific tumors, The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) publishes guidelines developed and reviewed by leading experts in the field.

Possible Side Effects and Risks of Chemotherapy

Tumor cells are fast-growing. Traditional chemotherapy is designed to attack fast-growing cancer cells ability to grow and divide. However, some normal cells are also fast-growing (such as hair follicles, bone marrow and stomach cells) and so are often affected by chemotherapy.

Possible side effects:

  • Hair loss
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood counts
  • Low red blood cells (anemia): fatigue
  • Low white blood cells (leucopenia or neutropenia): risk of infection
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia): risk of bleeding

Newer approaches to chemotherapy target specific pathways in the tumor responsible for tumor growth or use the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. Side effects associated with these newer treatments may be different than those from traditional chemotherapy. Talk to your physician about effects you are having and ways side effects can be managed.