Chemotherapy typically refers to drugs used for cancer treatment. Two other medical terms used to describe chemotherapy are antineoplastic (meaning anti-cancer) therapy and cytotoxic (cell-killing) therapy.
Chemotherapy is often the therapy of choice for treating many cancers. It differs from surgery or radiation in that it is almost always used as a systemic treatment, with the drugs traveling throughout the body to reach cancer cells wherever they may have spread. Treatments like radiation and surgery act in a specific area such as the breast, lung, or colon, and are considered local treatments.
More than 100 drugs are currently used for chemotherapy - either alone or in combination with other drugs or treatments.
Wake Forest Baptist participates in many cancer-related clinical trials evaluating various combinations of drugs as well as therapies targeting cancer cells while sparing non-cancerous cells.
Patients who participate in clinical trials make an important contribution to medical care because the study results will also help future patients. At the same time, they may be among the first to benefit from these new treatments. As research continues, more drugs are expected to become available. These drugs vary widely in their chemical composition, how they are taken, their usefulness in treating specific forms of cancer, and their side effects. New drugs are first developed through laboratory research and in animals and then tested in clinical trials in humans to determine their safety and effectiveness.