How, exactly, do most chemotherapy drugs target cancer cells?
Most chemotherapy drugs work by targeting the rapidly dividing cells in a tumor. These drugs interfere with cell division and growth, making it difficult for cancerous cells to replicate. Some chemotherapy drugs are designed to directly inhibit the reproduction of cancer cells. Other types of chemo work by damaging DNA or other cellular structures within the tumor cell itself, thereby disrupting its ability to function and reproduce.
The effects on normal body functions vary depending on the type of drug used in treatment. Some kill only certain kinds of tumors while others act more widely throughout the body and can also affect healthy tissue if they reach it before being cleared away by the immune system or organ systems like the liver and kidneys. This is why common side effects include nausea, hair loss, fatigue and anemia – these are all signs that healthy tissue is being affected as well as tumors.