What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy involves using drugs to remove cancer cells. It is used against a large number of different cancers, usually in combination with surgery and / or radiotherapy. Treatment with chemotherapy can have several different objectives:
Cure the disease permanently, in combination with surgery and / or radiotherapy
Obtain a remission (the disease becomes undetectable) of long duration allowing a normal life
Relieving the patient by reducing the volume of the tumor (palliative chemotherapy)
Most often, chemotherapy is composed of a combination of several drugs that act according to different mechanisms. Thus the cancer cells are attacked simultaneously on several fronts, which increases the efficiency of the treatment.
The type of drugs, their dosage and their possible combination with other treatments (surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy) are chosen on a case-by-case basis. Chemotherapy, for example, precedes surgery to reduce the volume of a tumor, allowing a less mutilated operation.
How does chemotherapy work?
It attacks especially cells that multiply rapidly. This is usually the case with cancer cells. But our body also includes healthy cells that multiply, such as:
- Bone marrow cells that regenerate blood
- The cells of the digestive tract
- Cells that grow hair and hair
- The reproductive cells
The damage caused by chemotherapy to these healthy cells explains the side effects of the treatment.
Several modes of administration of chemotherapy
These drugs can be administered by:
- Injection into a vein
- the mouth
- Injection into a muscle
To facilitate intravenous administration, a small injection chamber (Port-A-Cath®) can be implanted under the skin and connected to a large vein. This injection chamber is placed under local anesthesia and removed in the same manner after the end of the treatment.
The frequency and duration of chemotherapy
The frequency and duration of treatment depend on the type of cancer, the drugs used and the way in which each patient supports chemotherapy. Usually, it is administered in a cycle interrupted by rest periods to allow the body to regain strength.
Many hopes from chemotherapy research
Recent medicines are making it possible to fight more and more effectively against the undesirable side effects of chemotherapy. The quality of life of those treated with chemotherapy has improved considerably.
On the other hand, a better understanding of the mechanisms of action of different chemotherapies should help to counter the mechanisms of resistance to treatment that certain cancers develop.
Academic research allows us to study the different therapeutic strategies and the best possible combinations of the existing treatments, in order to obtain maximum efficiency and maintain an optimal quality of life.
Finally, the research efforts pursued by the pharmaceutical industry make it possible to hope for the discovery of new medicines or similar, more effective medicines.