What are antineoplastic drugs?
Antineoplastic drugs are medications used to treat cancer. Antineoplastic drugs are also called anticancer, chemotherapy, chemo, cytotoxic, or hazardous drugs.
There are several major classes of anticancer drugs; these include alkylating agents, antimetabolites, natural products, and hormones. In addition, there are a number of drugs that do not fall within those classes but that demonstrate anticancer activity and thus are used in the treatment of malignant disease.
Who is exposed to anticancer drugs?
- Pharmacists who prepare antineoplastic drugs.
- Nurses who prepare and/or administer the drugs.
- Doctors and operating room workers who treat patients who have antineoplastic drugs in their bodies.
- Hospital staff such as shipping and receiving personnel, custodial workers, laundry workers, and waste handlers who might come into contact with these drugs through their work, by transporting the drugs, cleaning up spills, or handling linens contaminated with bodily fluids from patients receiving antineoplastic drugs.
Principles of Antineoplastic Chemotherapy
The decision to use antineoplastic chemotherapy depends on the type of tumor to be treated, the stage of malignancy, the condition of the animal, and financial considerations. Chemotherapy can be used as an adjuvant to surgery and irradiation and can be administered immediately after or before the primary treatment. Neoadjuvant therapy is administered before surgery or irradiation and is intended to improve the effectiveness of the primary therapy by possibly decreasing tumor size, stage of malignancy, or presence of micrometastatic lesions. Responses to cancer chemotherapy can range from palliation (remission of secondary signs, generally without increase in survival time) to complete remission (in which clinically detectable tumor cells and all signs of malignancy are absent). The percentage and duration of complete remissions are criteria for the success of a particular chemotherapeutic protocol.
Effective clinical use of anticancer drugs depends on the ability to balance the killing of tumor cells against the inherent toxicity of many of these drugs to host cells. Because of the narrow therapeutic indices of anticancer agents, dosages are frequently calculated based on body surface area (BSA) rather than body mass. However, evidence suggests that small dogs and cats may best be treated based on body weight to avoid overdosage