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Cancer Chemotherapy: Teaching Old Drugs New Tricks

Brigid Kane
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Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2001;135(12):1107-1110. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-135-12-200112180-00035
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For most of the millions of patients with cancer (Table), the toxicity associated with cancer chemotherapy is frequently the rate-limiting factor in the use of potentially effective drugs. The indiscriminate cytotoxicity of cancer drugs—the killing of healthy and cancerous cells alike—means that it is often not possible to use what should be the best available single or combination chemotherapeutic agents. Other consequences of the toxicity of cancer chemotherapy include using a suboptimal dose or intermittent dosing schedules (alternating chemotherapy with rest periods) or forgoing chemotherapy altogether. The elderly and patients with comorbid illnesses are most likely to forgo or ask to discontinue chemotherapy, noted Gary Lyman, MD, MPH, director of the Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at Albany Medical College in New York.

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