Main Menu

Anticancer drugs

The goal of cancer treatment is first to eradicate the cancer. If this primary goal cannot be accomplished, the goal of cancer treatment shifts to palliation, the amelioration of symptoms, and preservation of quality of life while striving to extend life.

Cancer treatments are divided into four main types: surgery, radiation therapy (including photodynamic therapy), chemotherapy (including hormonal therapy and molecularly targeted therapy), and biologic therapy (including immunotherapy and gene therapy). The modalities are often used in combination, and agents in one category can act by several mechanisms. Surgery and radiation therapy are considered local treatments, though their effects can influence the behavior of tumor at remote sites. Chemotherapy and biologic therapy are usually systemic treatments.

Chemotherapeutic agents are used to treat various types of cancers. Although some are specific for cancer cells, most chemotherapeutic agents are toxic for both normal and cancer cells. When cure of cancer is possible, cancer treatments may be undertaken despite the certainty of severe and perhaps life-threatening toxicities.

Commonly Used Cancer Chemotherapy Agents

1) Direct DNA-Interacting Agents 

  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Mechlorethamine
  • Chlorambucil
  • Melphalan
  • Carmustine
  • Lomustine
  • Ifosfamide
  • Procarbazine
  • Cisplatin

2) Antitumor antibiotics 

  • Bleomycin
  • Actinomycin D
  • Mitomycin C
  • Etoposide
  • Doxorubicin and daunorubicin
  • Idarubicin
  • Epirubicin

3) Indirect DNA-Interacting Agents 


  • 6-Mercaptopurine
  • 6-Thioguanine
  • Azathioprine
  • 2-Chlorodeoxyadenosine
  • Hydroxyurea
  • Methotrexate
  • 5-Fluorouracil
  • Cytosine arabinoside
  • Azacytidine
  • Asparaginase

4) Antimitotic agents 

  • Vincristine
  • Vinblastin

  5) Molecularly Targeted Agents 

  • Tretinoin
  • Bexarotene

Naturally occurring anticancer substances

1) Vitamin A and Beta Carotene

2) Vitamin E

3) Ascorbic acid

4) Selenium

5) Zinc

6) Quercetin- A flavonoids present in apple

7) Glucosinolates- present in bitter brussel sprouts

8) Epigallocatectin Gallate- present in green tea.

Please help "Biochemistry for Medics" by CLICKING ON THE ADVERTISEMENTS above!