|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Hi Kyle! I'm always happy to answer questions for fellow Colorado natives. The whole point of chemotherapy is to kill cancerous cells while leaving the healthy, normal cells alone. Unfortunately we don't have any very good ways of doing that right now. There's a lot of research being done to find better ways to target drugs so that they just kill cancer cells, but at the moment we're stuck with the methods we have. Those methods almost entirely rely on the fact that cancer cells are dividing and multiplying, while most of the other cells in the body aren't. The problem is that there are some cells that are supposed to divide, even in adults who aren't growing. Some exmaples are hair follicles, the cells that line the digestive tract, and cells of the immune system. Our current chemotherapy drugs don't discriminate, which leads to the side effects that are common with chemotherapy patients. There are dozens of these drugs, with lots of different names they're marketed under. A complete list of drugs used to treat cancer can be found at: http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/cdm/patients/cid/pt-drug-index.shtml In addition, a thorough description of the process and options associated with chemotherapy can be found at: http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/occdocs/400064.html I hope this answers your questions. Eli Hestermann
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Medicine.