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Over eighty different compounds have been approved to treat cancer. Their mechanisms of action, effectiveness against specific cancers, and potential toxicity vary greatly. This chapter in Cancer Concepts: A Guidebook for the Non-Oncologist will describe, in terms of mechanism of action, the most important classes of cytotoxic and targeted therapies as well as their most characteristic side effects and clinical uses. A table summarizing the classes of drugs and representative members of those classes is included at the end of the chapter. Rather than an encyclopedia, this will be a schematic diagram or roadmap to more detailed knowledge that you will acquire during your clinical training and subsequent experience.


University of Massachusetts Medical School


Worcester, MA


Cancer drugs, cytotoxic chemotherapy, targeted therapies, antineoplastic agents


Cancer Biology | Neoplasms | Oncology | Therapeutics


2nd ed.

This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. HHSN276201100010C with the University of Massachusetts, Worcester.

Cancer Treatment Drugs



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