How Do Doctors Decide Which Chemotherapy Drugs To Give?
The types of chemotherapy drugs are selected based on a variety of information and
- Research: Chemotherapy was first introduced in the 1940's.
For the next 20 years, it was considered an investigational treatment. In
the last 30 years, chemotherapy information evolved and many more effective
drugs have been developed. During all of this time, doctors have documented
responses and conducted clinical trials comparing standard treatments to new treatments.
This process of gathering chemotherapy information has helped to establish
specific protocols (types of drugs, doses of drugs and schedule of drugs) based
on the type of cancer, stage of cancer, and other specifics about a person's cancer.
Currently, most types of cancer have some standard protocols that help guide the
doctors in selecting the right chemotherapy for an individual with cancer.
- Response rates: In evaluating chemotherapy information and choosing
a protocol for a given patient, doctors will consider the response rate of the particular
type and stage of cancer to the proposed drug or drugs. Response rates refer
to the number of people whose tumors will respond (shrink or disappear) to the drug
or drugs given. Response rates are established through research. For
example, a certain type and stage of cancer might have a 70% response rate to a
certain combination of drugs. This means that 70% of the people with this
type and stage of tumor have a response (shrinkage or disappearance of the tumor)
to this combination of drugs. It also means that 30% of the people with this
type and stage of cancer will not respond to the treatment or will have only a minimal
response. Responses to therapy can be either complete or partial
(these are defined according to the type of cancer and the specific protocol).
Another consideration in determining which drugs to give is response duration.
In other words, how long do the responses last? Through research, an average
response duration for any given drug protocol has been documented. Doctors
choose protocols with the highest response rates and longest known durations.
- The Health of the Patient: Chemotherapy has toxicities.
It must be given with care - even to healthy individuals. People who are extremely
old and frail or who have other medical complications may not be able to tolerate
certain chemotherapy protocols. In these cases, the potential risks versus
benefits must be discussed before deciding on the treatment. In some cases,
the doctors may suggest a single drug rather than a "standard combination" of drugs.
In other cases, the doctor and patient may decide not to pursue chemotherapy and,
instead, focus on quality of life.
There is no one correct choice in choosing chemotherapy. Each treatment protocol
has advantages and disadvantages, and there may be more than one good option.
In addition, treatment choices can change over time. A good chemotherapy treatment
choice at one time may not be the choice at a later time.
Finally, although doctors use the latest chemotherapy research and the best response
rates to select the best treatment protocols for their patients, there is no guarantee
that an individual will achieve the desired response. It is impossible to
predict the outcome of therapy for any individual. However, response rates
have improved dramatically and new drugs are being developed continuously so outcomes
will continue to improve.
More Chemotherapy Information:
Protocols - How Chemotherapy Works
How Chemotherapy Is Given
How Doctors Decide Which Chemotherapy Drugs To Give
How Long Chemotherapy Is Given
How To Tell If Chemotherapy Is Working
Cancer Cells & Chemotherapy
Short & Long Term Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Cancer Clinical Trials