What is chemotherapy composed of that it can kill cancer cells but at the same time not kill regular blood cells?

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dano7744 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chemotherapy is a catch all term that just means treatment of some illness with chemicals. Most people associate the term with cancer treatments. Technically, if you have a headache and take a Tylenol or Ibuprofen, that is chemotherapy because you are treating an illness with a chemical.

Chemotherapy related treatments for cancer have many formulations of different medications, the type of medication prescribed by your physician will depend upon the type of cancer being treated, the age of the patient, the preferred route of administration, and whether the cancer is localized or systemic in nature. Cancer drugs are classified as antineoplastic agents. A few examples are: Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), Melphalan (Alkeran), Chlorambucil (Leukeran), and Streptozocin (Zanosar R). Additionally, some antineoplastic agents are combination drugs that contain two or more agents in the preparation, they are used for various types of neoplasms.

One of the problems with most antineoplastic agents is that not only are they effective in destroying cancerous cells but they also destroy normal healthy cells. This fact poses a real concern for individuals undergoing cancer treatments.

Pharmacotherapeutics/Kuhn/p. 1,340

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