One of the most common cancer treatments is chemotherapy which is simply called chemo. In chemotherapy, drugs are given to kill or shrink the cancerous growth of the affected tissue. The aim of prescribing chemotherapy is to cessation or delay the cancerous growth and rapid breakdown. But the effect of chemotherapy is not only restricted in the cancer cells but also negatively affect the healthy cells. This leads to different side effects. The chemotherapy-induced side effects go away slowly after discontinuing the therapy.
The history of chemotherapy had been begun in 1900. Paul Ehrlich, a famous German chemist first developed medicines to treat infectious diseases. He was the first who introduced the term ‘chemotherapy’ and defined the term as chemicals used to treat diseases. Paul Ehrlich also performed animal studies to identify the chemicals which had the potentiality to treat the diseases. The implications of this study’s results helped in cancer drug development. Ehrlich had also an interest in cancer drug development and he first introduced aniline dyes, which were the first primitive alkylating agents. But this drug discovery does not give a promising result. However, this was the beginning of the journey of cancer chemotherapy.
Until the 1960s, surgery and radiotherapy were the choices of treatment for cancer, but with time, it had clear that localized treatment could not be enough to provide successful treatment outcomes in all cases. It had also come up that a combination of chemotherapy provided better curative results in various advanced cancers.
In breast cancer treatment, chemotherapy was first used as adjuvant therapy in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation treatments. Gradually, the introduction of chemotherapy in cancer treatment became a standard clinical practice in combination with other treatment modalities to gain the best antitumor effect. However, the development of each chemotherapeutic agent for cancer treatment has many challenges. Among them, two primary limitations in drug discovery are very few effective chemicals have identified which could effective against cancer in humans; secondly, difficulty in obtaining clinical facilities to check the efficacy of such agents. However, the discovery of cancer chemotherapy reduces the mortality rate which is significantly noticeable from the 1990s. A research report stated that using chemotherapy declined cancer mortality rate almost doubled in 2007 which is a positive sign of cancer chemotherapy.
In current clinical practice, the oncologist specialist detects the type of cancer and stage of cancer before prescribing the chemotherapy. The primary aim of prescribing chemotherapy is to stop the cancer progression and restrict its recurrence. But if this cannot be possible, then chemotherapy is prescribed to delay the spreading of cancer. Chemotherapy also provides symptomatic relief by slowing down cancer growth or delay cancer progression. In some cases, chemotherapy also acts as a palliative treatment for cancer patients.
Before prescribing chemotherapy to cancer patients, the oncologist thoroughly reviews the patient case history, which includes cancer type, size, and location of a cancerous tumor, rate of spreading, or stage of cancer, patient’s age and general health condition, presence of other medical condition, how patient deal with the side effect of chemotherapy, previous history of cancer treatment. Therefore, cancer treatment is not a generalized treatment process, but it is an individualized treatment. Depending upon all these reports, one or a combination of chemotherapeutic agents may prescribe by the doctor.