Antineoplastics are medications that are used to treat neoplasms. Neoplasms include solid tumors as well as other malignancies, such as leukemia.

Different antineoplastics work on different parts of the cell replication cycle, so a combination of these drugs may be given for increased efficacy.

Antineoplastics are designed to kill cells that are dividing rapidly (the uniting characteristic of cancers), and will therefore also interfere with those body cells that naturally divide rapidly. This is the reason they have the side effects and contraindications that they do; for example, the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract are completely replaced every 3 to 5 days. To do this, they must divide rapidly. During chemotherapy, this division is halted, leading to digestive problems such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and malabsorption. The cells of the immune system also have a rapid turnover rate, as do the hair follicle cells and gonadal tissue. This is also the reason chemotherapy is absolutely contraindicated in pregnancy, since the defining characteristic of the developing child is growth, i.e. cell division.


Brand/Generic Drug Names

Paraplatin/carboplatin, Platinol/cisplatin, Zanosar/streptozocin, Cytoxan/cyclophosphamide, Cerubidine/daunorubicin, Adriamycin/doxorubicin, Fluoroplex/fluorouracil, Purinethol/mercaptopurine, Blenoxane/bleomycin, Cytosar/cytarabine, Mexate/methotrexate, plicamycin, irinotecan, Megace/megestrel, Nolvadex/tamoxifen,Lupron/leuprolide,Teslac/testolactone, Elspar/asparaginase, interferon, procarbazine, Velban/vinblastine, Oncovin/vincristine, Taxol/paclitaxel, VePesid/etoposide, Nipent/pentostatin
Common uses
varies; leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, lymphomas, other tumors
Alkylating agents: cross-link strands of DNA
Antimetabolites: inhibit DNA synthesis
Antibiotic agents: inhibit RNA synthesis, inhibit mitosis
Hormones: change hormonal environment
Class contraindications
allergy, severe liver and kidney disease
Class precautions
bleeding, severe bone marrow depression, renal hepatic disease
toxicity with other antineoplastics or radiation
Adverse Reactions
thrombocytopenia, leukopenia, anemia, nausea, vomiting, glossitis, hair loss, hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, cardiotoxicity
Additional Information
Assess complete blood count, renal function, liver function tests, intake and output, temperature every 4 hrs
Assess for bleeding, jaundice, edema, mucosal inflammation
Provide strict asepsis and isolation if white blood cells are low
Perform good oral hygiene w. soft brush Evaluate therapeutic response: decreased tumor size
Date of most recent Update
August 08, 2002
Further information is available in the writeup for the specific name(s) of this medication class

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