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Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat childhood brain and spinal cord cancer.
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to treat cancer. It is usually a systemic therapysystemic therapyTreatment that travels through the bloodstream to reach cells all over the body. that circulates throughout the body and destroys cancer cells, including those that may have broken away from the primary tumour. Systemic therapy may be given orally (by mouth) or intravenously (into a vein).
For some types of tumours, chemotherapy may be given as a regional therapy in one of the following ways.
Chemotherapy may be used:
Drugs, doses and schedules may vary from child to child.
Until recently, chemotherapy was considered to be of little benefit in childhood brain and spinal cord cancer. This is because the blood-brain barrier prevents harmful substances, including drugs from getting into the brain. However, researchers have discovered that the presence of brain tumours disrupts the blood-brain barrier. As a result, some chemotherapy drugs can in fact cross the barrier to reach the tumour. Researchers have also found that some types of chemotherapy drugs (water-soluble drugs) can easily pass through the disrupted parts of the barrier. Other types of drugs (liposoluble, or fat soluble drugs) can pass through a blood-brain barrier that is not disrupted. Researchers are now focusing on finding the drugs that will be most effective against brain tumours.
The most common chemotherapy drugs used to treat childhood brain and spinal cord cancer are:
Other drugs may be used before surgery to treat swelling of the brain, seizures, nausea and vomiting. These drugs include corticosteroids, anti-convulsants and anti-emetics.
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