Chemotherapy: The extraordinary treatment of cancer disease

One of the indicators that we could cure cancer in the 1960s was the effective treatment of childhood leukemia.

Cancer and similar diseases that cause death can only be treated with chemical treatment (drug therapy) or a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, which nowadays is a remedy for many suffering patients and extends their lives significantly. One of the tips that told us we could deal with cancer in the 1960s was the successful treatment of childhood leukemia with a type of cancer called “choriocarcinoma” in the womb. Chemotherapeutic drug combinations that kill tumor cells have the ability to cure worsening cases with the help of hope. Even though chemotherapy is definitely a big step forward, as many people hope or think, it may not always work.

The successful treatment of “choriocarcinoma“—cancer that develops in the womb—as well as childhood leukemia with the methotrexate drug were the initial clues for the possibility of cancer treatment in the 1960s.

In poison there is physic; and these news,
Having been well, that would have made me sick,
Being sick, have in some measure made me well

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2

Chemotherapy treatment


Chemotherapy is a treatment that primarily targets the nuclear activities of the cell related to DNA replication. Since these activities take place in all cells, we cannot call them “magic bullets“. Chemotherapy is a method that targets rapidly dividing cells. Here, the unique properties of cancer cells play an important role, because cancer cells multiply faster than normal cells. However, chemotherapy affects both dividing normal cells and dividing cancer cells. When chemotherapy is successful, its effect is most quickly manifested in cancers with rapidly dividing cells. Likewise, their side effects are most evident in the tissues and organs where normal cells usually divide very quickly. These include the hair follicles, the inner wall of the intestine, and the bone marrow, which is where blood cells are made.

Chemotherapy drugs

Alkylating agents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, topoisomerase inhibitors, and herbal alkaloids. These are all major groups of chemotherapeutic drugs that affect DNA synthesis or cell division.

Alkylating agents

They interfere with the base pairs that make up the DNA double helix and stop the proliferation of tumor cells.


They act as purine or pyrimidine and act on essential enzymes by preventing or replacing the use of essential metabolites. By stopping normal development and division, they act on cancerous cells rather than healthy cells.

Herbal alkaloids

They prevent cell division by blocking microtubule functions. Microtubules are structures made up of small tubular protein molecules that allow the transport of materials within the cell. Microtubules are important for cell division, so stopping them from working stops the growth of cancerous cells as well.

Topoisomerase inhibitors

By splitting the normal DNA strands, they inhibit DNA synthesis and transcription (the process of copying DNA into RNA). Cancer cells cannot reproduce without topoisomerases, the enzymes that make DNA exist.

Antitumor antibiotics

They are microbial fermentation products produced from a mushroom group called Streptomyces. They prevent cell division in two main ways. First, they interfere with DNA synthesis by entering between two nucleotide bases and preventing their division. Second, by blocking ribonucleic acid, they indirectly stop the enzyme synthesis.

New drugs are added to these groups every day, and new chemotherapeutic agent groups are formed. Many of them rightly give new hope to oncologists and patients.

By Bertie Atkinson

As a history and science writer for Malevus, Bertie Atkinson writes about a wide range of subjects, including ancient civilizations and world wars. During his leisure time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.