Any drug treatment may be accompanied by adverse events or toxicity. This is especially true for anticancer therapies, generally named chemotherapies, administered to kill cancer cells.
The extent of side effects or toxicity depends on the dose and can vary from subject to subject and from treatment to treatment. It is important to note that many of the side effects are temporary, decreasing and/or gradually disappearing in the days following administration or discontinuation of treatment. Patients generally accept the chemotherapy side effects considering the benefits that treatment produces, even if most of these interfere with a good quality of life.
The most common side effects of classic chemotherapy include hair loss, anemia, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, bruising or small bleeding; and also, cognitive problems (“chemo brain”). The main organs that may be affected by chemotherapy are those in which normal cells proliferate rapidly, this is why chemotherapy drugs, which act on the ability of cells to multiply themselves, can also destroy some healthy cells that reproduce quickly. Among these are the blood cells, those of the hair follicles, the cells that line the mouth, stomach and intestine, and those of the reproductive organs. Such drugs cause DNA damage or stop cells in mitosis, targeting both dividing cancer and dividing healthy cells. Clearly, DNA damaging chemotherapy treatments may cause damage to both cancer and healthy cells to generate toxic side-effects.
Full paper ref: Landolfi C. Toxicity of Anticancer Therapies. Arch Clin Toxicol 2019; 1(1):7-8