Types of Chemotherapy

Alkylating Agents

Alkylating agents are most active in the resting phase of the cell.  These types of drugs are cell-cycle non-specific.  There are several types of alkylating agents used in chemotherapy treatments:

  • Mustard gas derivatives:  Mechlorethamine, Cyclophosphamide, Chlorambucil, Melphalan, and Ifosfamide.
  • Ethylenimines:  Thiotepa and Hexamethylmelamine.
  • Alkylsulfonates:  Busulfan.
  • Hydrazines and Triazines: Altretamine, Procarbazine, Dacarbazine and Temozolomide.
  • Nitrosureas:  Carmustine, Lomustine and Streptozocin.  Nitrosureas are unique because, unlike most types of chemo treatments, they can cross the blood-brain barrier.  They can be useful in treating brain tumors.
  • Metal salts:  Carboplatin, Cisplatin, and Oxaliplatin.

Plant Alkaloids

Plant alkaloids are chemotherapy treatments derived made from certain types of plants.  The vinca alkaloids are made from the periwinkle plant (catharanthus rosea). The taxanes are made from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxus).  The vinca alkaloids and taxanes are also known as antimicrotubule agents. The podophyllotoxins are derived from the May apple plant. Camptothecan analogs are derived from the Asian “Happy Tree” (Camptotheca acuminata).  Podophyllotoxins and camptothecan analogs are also known as topoisomerase inhibitors, which are used in certain types of chemotherapy.  The plant alkaloids are cell-cycle specific.  This means they attack the cells during various phases of division.

  • Vinca alkaloids: Vincristine, Vinblastine and Vinorelbine.
  • Taxanes:  Paclitaxel and Docetaxel.
  • Podophyllotoxins:  Etoposide and Tenisopide.
  • Camptothecan analogs: Irinotecan and Topotecan.

Antitumor Antibiotics

Antitumor antibiotics are chemo treatments made from natural products produced by species of the soil fungus Streptomyces.  These drugs act during multiple phases of the cell cycle and are considered cell-cycle specific.  There are several types of antitumor antibiotics:

  • Anthracyclines:  Doxorubicin, Daunorubicin, Epirubicin, Mitoxantrone, and Idarubicin.
  • Chromomycins:  Dactinomycin and Plicamycin.
  • Miscellaneous:  Mitomycin and Bleomycin.

Antimetabolites

Antimetabolites are types of chemotherapy treatments that are very similar to normal substances within the cell.  When the cells incorporate these substances into the cellular metabolism, they are unable to divide.  Antimetabolites are cell-cycle specific.  They attack cells at very specific phases in the cycle.  Antimetabolites are classified according to the substances with which they interfere.

  • Folic acid antagonist:  Methotrexate.
  • Pyrimidine antagonist:  5-Fluorouracil, Foxuridine, Cytarabine, Capecitabine, and Gemcitabine.
  • Purine antagonist:  6-Mercaptopurine and 6-Thioguanine.
  • Adenosine deaminase inhibitor:  Cladribine, Fludarabine, Nelarabine and Pentostatin.

Topoisomerase Inhibitors

Toposiomerase inhibitors are types of chemotherapy drugs that interfere with the action of topoisomerase enzymes (topoisomerase I and II).  During the process of chemo treatments, topoisomerase enzymes control the manipulation of the structure of DNA necessary for replication.

  • Topoisomerase I inhibitors:  Ironotecan, topotecan
  • Topoisomerase II inhibitors:  Amsacrine, etoposide, etoposide phosphate, teniposide

Miscellaneous Antineoplastics

Several useful types of chemotherapy drugs are unique:

  • Ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor:  Hydroxyurea.
  • Adrenocortical steroid inhibitor:  Mitotane
  • Enzymes:  Asparaginase and Pegaspargase.
  • Antimicrotubule agent:  Estramustine
  • Retinoids:  Bexarotene, Isotretinoin, Tretinoin (ATRA)

Beyond the aforementioned types of chemotherapy, many other types of chemo treatments exist, such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy.

Jul 18,2019

Scientists in Northwestern University have developed a new promising chemo drug delivert system. This new drug delivery system is like a Trojan horse, it disguises chemotherapeutics as tasty fat in order to outsmart tumors, the tumor’s receptors see it and invite it inside. Once there, the targeted drug activates, immediately suppressing tumor growth. The drug also is lower in toxicity than current chemotherapy drugs, leading to fewer side effects.

In the study, the researchers used the drug delivery system to carry a common, FDA-approved chemotherapy drug, paclitaxel, into tumors in a small animal model. Disguised as fat, the drug entered and completely eliminated the tumors in three types of cancer: bone, pancreatic and colon. Even better: the researchers found they could deliver 20 times the dose of paclitaxel with their system, compared to two other paclitaxel-based drugs. But even at such a high quantity, the drug in Gianneschi’s system was still 17 times safer.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.