Cancer Drugs – Learning More About Cancer Medication

There are many types of cancer that people may suffer from but one thing that stays similar is the types of medication that they may be using. There are many forms of medication that you may be prescribed with various types of side effect to go with each. Your doctor will go over your particular case with you and determine which type of treatment is the best.

Your treatment may consist of such treatments as Chemotherapy, Hormone therapy, Biological therapy, Alternative and complimentary therapy and of course drug treatment. Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs which are done intravenously, by mouth, Injectable and topical applications. They stop the growth of cancer cells as they destroy the cells. This type of treatment is usually done in cycles. They will usually alternate treatments with rest periods to allow the person to recuperate.

Some of the anti-cancer medications that your doctor may use may include such medications as: Hexalen, Elspar, Blenoxane, Xeloda, Idamycin and Doxil just to name a few. Most cancer medications come with a hefty list of side effects. Unfortunately the necessity of the medication makes it almost impossible to avoid side effects. If you suffer from severe side effects your doctor will most likely prescribe another medication to counter act the side effects.

Some of the side effects that you may or may not experience with cancer medications might be: Feeling very tired and weak, more susceptible to infections and they can bleed and bruise easily. Keep in mind that you can use other drugs to counteract the side effects and that makes it much easier for you to undergo the necessary cancer treatment.

Radiation therapy is the form of treatment where they use ionizing radiation. This type of treatment kills off the cell in the area that is being treated. This makes it impossible for the cells to grow back. Often times the area of cancer will be surgically removed and then the radiation and chemotherapy will start. If you choose to do the hormone therapy, this is where you will be given hormones to change the way your cells grow in your body.

Biological therapy is also known as Immunotherapy as it helps you make use of your immune system to help with your side effects from other medications as well as fighting off the cancer cells.

No matter which form of cancer you suffer from, be sure to keep a good line of communication open with your doctor. Educate yourself on all of your medications and be sure to know what side effects that you may or may not experience. Before starting any type of new treatment, be sure to discuss all of your options with your oncologist. He or she will be more than happy to go over your treatment plan in detail so you can be well informed on what to expect. If you find a medication that you are interested in then bring this up with your doctor as well so that he or she can consider it as a possibility or let you know why it is not a good choice.

Miracle Cancer Drugs – The Downside

Patients might have to go to court to get cancer drugs – but afterward how many quietly come off these same drugs because of horrendous side effects?

Hailed as miracle drugs when first developed, research has proven that patients on these hormonal cancer drugs have a far longer life expectancy rate. But these patients were monitored during clinical trials, which meant often having a specialist nurse coming to their home helping them handle side effects. Once drugs are approved, this stops.

Recent says a high proportion of patients now coming off the new long-term hormonal cancer drugs, before the end of the five-year cycle Reports speak of the miracle of extending a life cycle with the aid of a new drug, but don’t highlight the cost to a patient’s general well being.

What isn’t widely reported is that many of these drugs have violent side effects. If patients eventually decide they can’t handle these, they come off the drugs, rather than complete the course. I had to threaten to take my PCT to court to obtain Aromasin, but every time I scratch an unbearable itch from dry skin, or peel off another skin layer, I realise these drugs exact a price.

Reports produced by Dr. Louise Atkins and Dr. Lesley Fallowfield in Sussex and Thomas I. Barron and others at Trinity College Dublin say, “the rate of non persistence with therapy is higher than previously reported. ….. (raising) concerns about persistence with other oral hormonal therapies for breast cancer and oral antineoplastics in general. Oncologists need to identify those at risk of non persistence and develop strategies to combat this barrier to treatment success”.

Both reports indicate around 50-55% of patients coming off these drugs, even though they may have had problems obtaining them in the first place.

Oncology nurses are reluctant to suggest ways to help, particularly when it concerns skin or eyes. Hence patients decide enough is enough, and stop.

As a breast cancer patient, a week after starting Tamoxifen, I woke with bloody sheets and blistering, peeling skin. Eventually steroids cleared this up – then another bout happened a month later. Side effects had targeted my skin, from hair to nails; as my Oncology Nurse peeled off another skin layer, sternly said she couldn’t recommend commercial products to help (and drugs aren’t commercial?!).

In front of a crowd of giggling students, the senior Dermatologist at my local hospital told me, “it’s your age”, then swept out before I could ask why? After my Oncology Specialist had sold me the drug with statistics, I refused his “do you want to come off Tamoxifen?” offer, but used journalist contacts with major skincare companies such as Clinique, Estée Lauder, Clarins, etc. to ask if they knew what was happening?

Yes, their research chemists knew all about these problems. In fact for years had been trying to get doctors to work with them, to help patients, particularly those with skin problems. But these companies (making millions profit a year) are regarded as ‘commercial’. Drug companies (making billions profit a year) are not seen in the same light.

As soon as my doctor said my skin was clear, they would send me products for the dryness, and – even more importantly – these would help prevent a recurrence of painful and frightening symptoms. So when things cleared up I became a test bed for lovely skin products.

Drug companies know these side effects exist, although AstraZeneca waited until last year to include carpal tunnel syndrome amongst the list of side effects for Arimidex. But these companies are keen to get their products approved by NICE; once this happens, they know they can sell the drugs, so don’t worry about helping patients suffering everything from horrendous hot flushes to blindness (usually only temporary).

In France doctors work with companies such as La Roche Posay to produce skincare specially to counter these hormonal drug side effects. Their post cancer survival rate is best in the world.

In Britain there is a lack of any desire to promote anything except the drugs – and possible side effects are brushed under the linoleum. Hence our position at the bottom of the European post cancer survival table.

Here, patients aren’t looking for miracles, but would welcome a ‘shopping list’ of products that might help them stay on the drugs. To try and spread the word, forums and websites talk about ‘having fun after cancer’, set up to tell patients that the products that will actually help are good skincare, and massage.

If doctors don’t take time to help patients handle side effects, more expensive hormonal drugs are going to get flushed down the loo, as patient keep quiet they have opted to stop.

Sources:
Early Discontinuation of Tamoxifen: A Lesson for Oncologists
Thomas I. Barron, MSc 1 *, Roisin Connolly, MB 2, Kathleen Bennett, PhD 1, John Fely, MD 1, M. John Kennedy, MB 2
1Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’ Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Intentional and non-intentional non-adherence to medication amongst breast cancer patients. Dr. Louise Atkins and Dr. Lesley Fallowfield, Psychosocial Oncology Group at Sussex University.

STA-478, A New Skin Cancer Drug Treatment

There is a new skin cancer treatment that is causing a huge buzz. Huge enough that two major Drug makers, GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Synta Pharmaceuticals Corporation will be collaborating on the development of an exciting and very promising new skin cancer drug treatment. This drug treatment has been shown to aid in even Stage 1V melanoma, which kills 70 per cent of its victims within one year

Named STA-4783, this is a new, injectable drug candidate that kills cancer cells by overloading cancerous cells with oxygen. Since cancer cells have a much lower tolerance for oxygen than non cancerous cell do, this causes them to self-destruct. This is a new category of anti cancer therapy, with remarkable potential.

In layman’s terms, STA-4783 raises the level of oxygen inside of the cancer cells. Cancer cells can not tolerate as much oxygen as normal cells, and this drug elevates the oxygen inside the cancer cell, and this causes the cell to pass the critical breading point, It then undergoes apoptosis, or programmed cell death. STA has little or no effect upon normal non-cancerous cells.

The fact that this anti cancer strategy can differentiate between the healthy and unhealthy cells targeting only the cancer cells is why scientists are so excited and are hopeful that this treatment will be successful in treating a broad range of cancers

In a double blind study, it was found that STA-4783 when used in moderate doses with Taxol (or paclitaxel), will double the progression free survival in Stage 1V melanoma as compared with Taxol along.

Melanoma is a very deadly skin cancer once it has spread past its site of origin. In Stage 1V melanoma, the cancer has spread all through the body, and the survival rate of people with Stage 1V metastic melanoma is 7-10 months. Since there are very few drugs that are useful for people with advanced skin cancer, this is an important breakthrough.

Cancer Drugs That Treat Diabetes

Researchers have reported that Gleevec, a wonder drug that has effectively treated leukemia and other cancers, may reverse Type 1 Diabetes too. These experiments were conducted on mice and it has been observed that not only did it prevent and cure diabetes, but also led to long term remission of diabetes even after discontinuation of therapy.

The cancer drugs like Geevec treat cancer by inhibiting a small subset of tyrosine kinases, which are enzymes that modify cells signalling protein through biochemical change. Kinases are therefore agents of proliferation that cause inflammation and cancer.

Since type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response which destorys insulin secreting cells in pancreas, the scientists sought to determine if one or more of the tyrosine kinases blocked by the cancer drugs might also be responsible for the destructive inflammation in the pancreas. If so, the drugs might be a promising discovery to treat diabetes.

This is an encouraging sign since this new class of compounds may modulate auto immunity. It is a potentially good discovery since it has been observed that with other diabetes reversing drugs, when the drug is stopped the disease comes back immediately. On the other hand it has been observed that in case of cancer drugs prolonged remission of diabetes occurs even after the drug is discontinued.

The only thing that is working against this drug is that its potential safety is still unknown. Another drug called Rituxan was designed to wipe out immune cells called B lymphocytes. These cells multiply out of control and result into lymphoma. They are also known to destroy insulin producing cells.

When Rituxan is administered to a patient it makes body produce more insulin initially.However it was observed that over a period as the effects of the drug faded, the insulin production begin to decline. Thus cancers drugs may spell good news for diabetics, but more research is needed.