Chemotherapy is the standard treatment for many types of leukemia. Even when a cure isn't possible, chemotherapy may help you live longer and feel better.
Chemotherapy for leukemia is usually a combination of drugs. This is because different drugs attack leukemia cells in different ways. The combination also helps keep the leukemia cells from becoming resistant to any one drug.
Along with the chemotherapy drugs, other medicines may be given to help the chemotherapy drugs work better and prevent infection or bleeding. These drugs include Reference epoetin and Reference hematopoietic stimulants.
For acute leukemia
Your treatment plan will include the kind of medicine that works best for the specific type or subtype of leukemia that you have.
- Reference Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) Opens New Window medicines may include Reference prednisone, Reference methotrexate, l-asparaginase, Reference vincristine, and doxorubicin or daunorubicin.
- Reference Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) Opens New Window medicines may include daunorubicin with Reference cytarabine. Reference Idarubicin or Reference mitoxantrone may be used instead of daunorubicin.
- Reference Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) Opens New Window medicines may include all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) and chemotherapy with arsenic trioxide, Reference idarubicin, or daunorubicin. ATRA also helps control the risk of life-threatening bleeding from Reference disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) Opens New Window.
Some types of acute leukemia spread to the brain and spinal cord. Regular chemotherapy can't reach those areas, because your body puts up a special barrier to protect them. A different way of giving chemotherapy, called intrathecal chemotherapy, treats these areas by injecting the drugs directly into your spinal canal to attack any leukemia cells there.
For chronic leukemia
- Reference Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) Opens New Window medicines may include Reference cyclophosphamide, Reference vincristine, and Reference prednisone. Other choices may include Reference fludarabine and Reference chlorambucil. The monoclonal antibodies Reference rituximab and Reference alemtuzumab may also be used.
- Reference Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) Opens New Window medicines include the chemotherapy medicines cyclophosphamide and cytarabine. Other medicines include Reference tyrosine kinase inhibitors. These include imatinib, dasatinib, and nilotinib.
Medicines used for treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are taken orally (by mouth) or given Reference intravenously Opens New Window for limited periods of time. If there is relapse, medicines are given again.
For chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), medicine is usually taken by mouth for as long as needed.
Medicine for nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy. They usually go away when treatment stops. Your doctor will prescribe medicines to help relieve nausea.
- Reference Aprepitant.
- Reference Dimenhydrinate.
- Reference Phenothiazines.
- Reference Serotonin antagonists.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology