Understanding Lung Cancer Medications (cont.)
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Depending on the type and stage of lung cancer, chemotherapy may slow tumor growth. Today, lung cancer is divided into two broad types, small cell and non-small cell cancers of the lung. Small cell cancers spread very rapidly in the body and are usually inoperable for this reason. They divide rapidly at the cellular level, which makes them very sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation. Non-small cell cancers often grow and spread less rapidly and may be operable if found early. They are more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation than once was thought, and many treatment options exist today for their management. Extensive stage small cell lung cancer, and inoperable non-small cell lung cancer are treated today with palliative intent. Although the precise modes or action may vary, all chemotherapy drugs work by decreasing the ability of cancer cells to grow and divide. Platinum alkylators, podophyllin alkaloids, vinca alkaloids, anthracyclines, topoisomerase inhibitors, taxanes, antimetabolites, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and folate antagonists are chemotherapy drugs commonly used to treat lung cancers.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/9/2014
Mary L Windle, PharmD
Winston W Tan, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Koyamangalath Krishnan, MD, FRCP
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Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) differs from other lung cancer types because of its rapid growth and propensity for early dissemination.