This idea of palliative chemotherapy is relatively new. Itâs only in recent years that that alleviation of symptoms has become an important component of clinical trials for cancer research. Chemotherapy is a general term for the use of a chemical agent to stop cancer cells from growing. It can be administered in a variety of ways with the most common being: Orally-pills taken by mouth, Intravenouslyâinfused through a vein, Topicallyâ applied to the skin. Chemotherapy usually refers to chemical agents such as alkylating agents, anti-metabolites, and anti-tumor antibiotics. These chemicals are designed to kill cancer cells and prevent them from growing but they arenât biased. They attack healthy cells as well, causing side effects such as nausea, hair loss, and infections. While not technically considered chemotherapy, other drugs may be used palliatively to shrink tumor size and slow cancer growth. They include hormone therapy and immunotherapy. Hormone therapy is the use of hormones to slow cancer growth, such as estrogen to slow cervical cancer, tamoxifen to slow breast cancer, and anti-androgens for prostate cancers. Immunotherapy is designed to stimulate the immune system to better recognize and attack cancer cells. For palliative purposes, most oncologists prefer to try the treatment with the least risk of side effects that would negatively impact quality of life. This means that hormone therapy may be tried before toxic chemotherapies.
Last date updated on July, 2014