All Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy started in the earLy 20th century when scientists observed nitrogen mustards suppressed bone marrow activity. Early chemotherapy was given as a palliative, but over time the goals adjusted to causing remission or cure.

While the other mainstays of cancer treatment – radiation therapy and surgery – are directed at one portion of the body at a time, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment. The anti-cancer drugs travel through the body and can attack cancerous cells anywhere.

Medicine Trade Name Category Comments
Abemaciclib Verzenio CDK (Cyclin-Dependent Kinase) Inhibitor  
Abiraterone Zytiga Antiandrogen, CYP17A1 inhibitor  
Acalabrutinib Calquence BTK Inhibitor  
Actinomycin-D Act-D, Cosmegen Antibiotic  
Ado-trastuzumab Kadcyla antibody-drug conjugate also called Trastuzumab emtansine
Afatinib Gilotrif Kinase Inhibitor  
Aldesleukin Proleukin Immunostimulant  
Alectinib Alecensa Kinase Inhibitor  
Alemtuzumab Campath Monoclonal antibody  
Alitretinoin Panretin, Toctino Retinoids  
Alpelisib Piqray PI3K Inhibitor  
Altretamine Hexalen Alkylating agent  
Aminoglutethimide Cytadren Aromatase inhibitor  
Anastrozole Arimidex Aromatase inhibitor  
Apalutamide Erleada Antiandrogen  
Arabinosylcytosine Cytarabine Antimetabolite  
Arsenic Trioxide   Other Might also cause cancer
Asparaginase, L-asoaaginase Elspar, Kidrolase Enzyme  
Atezolizumab Tecentriq Monoclonal Antibody checkpoint inhibitor
Avapritinib Ayvakit Kinase inhibitor  
Avelumab Bavencio Monoclonal Antibody checkpoint inhibitor
Axicabtagene Yescarta CAR T-Cell therapy  
Axitinib Inlyta Kinase Inhibitor  
Azacitidine Vidaza Antimetabolite  
Belinostat Beleodaq HDAC Inhibitor  
Bendamustine Treanda Alkylating Agent, Mustard  
Bevacizumab Avastin Monoclonal antibody Angiogenesis inhibitor
Bexarotene Targretin Retinoid  
Bicalutamide Casodex Anti-Androgen  
Binimetinib Mektovi Kinase Inhibitor  
Bleomycin Blenoxane Antibiotic  
Blinatumomab Blincyto Monoclonal Antibody  
Bortezomib Velcade Proteasome Inhibitor  
Bosutinib Bosulif Kinase Inhibitor  
Brentuximab vedotin Adcetris antibody-drug conjugate  
Brigatinib Alunbrig ALK Inhibitor  
Busulfan Myleran Alkylating Agent Alkyl sulfonate
Cabazitaxel Jevtana Taxane  
Cabozantinib Cabometyx Kinase Inhibitor  
Calaspargase pegol-mknl Asparlas Enzyme  
Camptothecin Camptosar Topoisomerase inhibitor  
Capecitabine Xeloda Antimetabolite Prodrug of Fluorouracil
Capmatinib Tabrecta kinase inhibitor  
Carboplatin Paraplatin Alkylating Agent Platinum compound
Carfilzomib Kyprolis Proteasome inhibitor  
Carmustine BiCNU Alkylating Agent Nitrosurea
Cemiplimab-rwlc Libtayo Monoclonal Antibody  
Ceritinib Zykadia ALK inhibitor  
Cetuximab Erbitux MAB  
Clofarabine Clolar antimetabolite  
Chlorambucil Leukeran Alkylating Agent, mustard  
Cisplatin Platinol Alkylating Agent Platinum compound
Cladribine Litak and Movectro Antimetabolite Adenosine deaminase inhibitor
Cobimetinib Cotellic MEK Inhibitor  
Copanlisib Aliqopa PIK3 Inhibitor  
Crizotinib Xalkori Kinase Inhibitor  
Cyclophosphamide Endoxan, Cytoxan, Neosar Alkylating Agent, mustard  
Cytarabine Cytosar-U Antimetabolite  
Dabrafenib Taflinar BRAF Inhibitor  
Dacarbazine DTIC, DTIC-Dome Alkylating Agent  
Dacomitinib Vizimpro Kinase Inhibitor  
Dactinomycin Cosmegen Antibiotic Another name for Actimycon-D
Daratumumab Darzalex MAB  
Darolutamide Nubeqa Hormone Suppressant  
Dasatinib Sprycel Kinase Inhibitor  
Daunorubicin DaunoXome, Cerubidine Anthracycline  
Decitabine Dacogen Antimetabolite Cytosine Analog
Degarelix Firmagon Antiandrogen  
Denileukin diftitox Ontak antibody-drug conjugate  
Dinutuximab Unituxin MAB  
Docetaxel Taxotere Mitotic Inhibitor  
Doxorubicin Adriamycin Anthracycline  
Durvalumab Imfinzi Monoclonal Antibody checkpoint inhibitor
Duvelisib Copiktra P1K3 inhibitor  
Medicine Trade Name Category Comments
Elotuzumab Emplicit MAB  
Enasidenib Idhifa IDH2 Inhibitor  
Encorafenib Braftovi Kinase Inhibitor  
Enfortumab vedotin-ejfv Padcev Kinase Inhibitor  
Entrectinib Rozlytrek Kinase Inhibitor  
Enzalutamide Xtandi nonsteroidal antiandrogen  
Epirubicin Ellence Anthracycline  
Erdafitinib Balversa Kinase Inhibitor  
Eribulin Halaven Mitotic Inhibitor  
Erlotinib Tarceva Kinase Inhibitor  
Estramustine Estracit Alkylating Agent, Mustard  
Etoposide Eposin, Vepesid Topoisomerase inhibitor plant alkaloid
Everolimus Afinitor, Zortress mTOR inhibitor  
Exemestane Aromasin Aromatase Inhibitor  
Fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan-nxki Enhertu Antibody-drug conjugate  
Fludarabine Phosphate Fludara Antimetabolite  
Fluorouracil (5-FU) Adrucil Antimetabolite  
Floxuridine FUDR Antimetabolite pyrimidine analog
Fludarabine Fludara Antimetabolite purine analog
Flutamide Eulexin nonsteroidal antiandrogen  
Fulvestrant Faslodex Hormone Suppressant  
Gefitinib Iressa Kinase Inhibitor  
Gemcitabine Gemzar Antimetabolite Nucleoside analog
Gemtuzumab ozogamicin Mylotarg antibody-drug conjugate  
Gilteritinib Xospata Kinase Inhibitor  
Glasdegib Daurismo Hedgehog signaling pathway inhibitor  
Goserelin Zoladex Hormone agonist  
Histrelin Vantas, Supprelin Hormone suppressant  
Hydroxyurea Hydrea, Droxia, Mylocel Antimetabolite inhibition of the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase
Ibritumomab Zevalin antibody-drug conjugate  
Ibrutinib Imbruvica BTK Inhibitor  
Idarubicin Idamycin Anthracycline  
Idelalisib Zydelig PI3K Inhibitor  
Ifosfamide Mitoxana, Ifex Alkylating Agent  
Imatinib Gleevec Kinase Inhibitor  
Inotuzumab ozogamicin Besponsa antibody-drug conjugate  
Interferon Intron A, Roferon A Immunostimulant  
Irinotecan Onivyde, Campostar Topoisomerase Inhibitor  
Ipilimumab Yervoy Monoclonal Antibody checkpoint inhibitor
Irinotecan Camptosa Topoisomerase Inhibitor  
Irinotecan Camptosa Topoisomerase Inhibitor  
Isatuximab-irfc Sarclisa Monoclonal Antibody  
Ivosidenib Tibsovo IDH1 Inbibitor  
Ixabepilone Azaepothilone B Mitotic Inhibitor  
Ixazomib Ninlaro Proteosome Inhibitor  
Lapatinib Tykerb Kinase Inhibitor  
Larotrectinib Vitrakvi Kinase Inhibitor  
Lenalidomide Revlimid Immunomodulatory imide Angiogenesis inhibitor
Lenvatinib Lanvima Kinase Inhibitor  
Letrozole Femara Aromatase Inhibitor  

Medicine Trade Name Category Comments
Leucovorin   Antimetabolite Same as Folinic acid
Leuprolide Viadur, Eligard Hormone Suppresant  
Lomustine CeeNu Alkylating Agent Nitrosurea
Lorlatinib Lorbrena Kinase Inhibitor  
Lurbinectedin Zepzelca transcription inhibitor  
Lutetium Lu 177 dotatate Lutathera antibody-drug conjugate  
Mechlorethamine Mustargen Alkylating Agent  
Megestrol Megace hormone suppressant  
Melphalan Alkeran Alkylating Agent  
Mercaptopurine Purinethol Antimetabolite  
Methotrexate MTX Antimetabolite Antifolate
Midostaurin Rydapt FLT3 Inhibitor  
Mitomycin Mutamycin Antibiotic  
Mitotane Lysodren inhibitor of the adrenal cortex  
Mitoxantrone Novantrone Topoisomerase Inhibitor  
Mogamulizumab Poteligeo Monoclonal Antibody  
Moxetumomab pasudotox-tdfk Lumoxiti Monoclonal Antibody  
Necitumumab Portrazza Monoclonal Antibody  
Nelarabine Arranon Antimetabolite  
Neratinib Nerlynx Kinase Inhibitor  
Nilotinib Tasigna Kinase Inhibitor  
Nilutamide Nilandron, Anandron Anti-androgen  
Niraparib Zejula PARP Inhibitor  
Nivolumab Opdivo Monoclonal Antibody checkpoint inhibitor
Obinutuzumab Gazyva Monoclonal Antibody  
Octreotide Sandostatin Hormone Suppressant  
Ofatumumab Arzerra Monoclonal antibody  
Olaparib Lymparza PARP Inhibitor  
Olaratumab Lartruvo Monoclonal Antibody  
Omacetaxine Synribo protein translation inhibitor and plant alkaloid  
Osimertinib Tagrisso Kinase Inhibitor EGFR inhibitor
Oxaliplatin Eloxatin Alkylating Agent Platinum compound
Medicine Trade Name Category Comments
Paclitaxel Taxol Mitotic Inhibitor taxane
Palbociclib Ibrance CDK4/6 inhibitor  
Panobinostat Farydak HDAC inhibitor  
Panitumumab Vectibix Monoclonal Antibody  
Pazopanib Votrient Kinase Inhibitor  
Pegaspargase Oncaspar Other  
Pegfilgrastim Neulasta Other  
Pembrolizumab Keytruda Monoclonal Antibody checkpoint inhibitor
Pemetrexed Alimta Antimetabolite Antifolate
Pemigatinib Pemazyre kinase inhibitor  
Pentostatin Nipent, deoxycoformycin Antimetabolite adenosine deaminase inhibitor
Pertuzumab Perjeta Monoclonal Antibody  
Polatuzumab vedotin-piiq Polivy antibody conjugate  
Pomalidomide Pomalyst Immunomodulatory imide  
Pralatrexate Folotyn Antimetabolite Antifolate
Ponatinib Iclusig Kinase Inhibitor  
Prednisolone Delta-Cortef, Orapred, Pediapred, Prelone
Corticosteroid Mostly used for other diseases
Prednisone Deltasone, Meticorten, Orasone Corticosteroid Mostly used for other diseases
Procarbazine Matulane Antimetabolite  
Medicine Trade Names Category Other
Raltitrexed Tomudex Antimetabolite Antifolate
Ramucirumab Cyramza Monoclonal Antibody  
Regorafenib Stivarga Kinase Inhibitor  
Ribociclib Kisqali Inhibitor of cyclin D1/CDK4 and CDK6  
Ripretinib Qinlock kinase inhibitor  
Rituximab Rituxan, MabThera Monoclonal Antibody  
Romidepsin Istodax HDAC Inhibitor  
Rucaparib Rubraca PARP Inhibitor  
Ruxolitinib Jakafi Kinase Inhibitor  
Sacituzumab govitecan-hziy Trodelvy Topoisomerase inhibitor  

Selinexor
Xpovio selective inhibitor of nuclear export  
Selpercatinib Retevmo kinase inhibitor  
Siltuximab Sylvant Monoclonal Antibody  
Sonidegib Odomzo Hedgehog signaling pathway inhibitor  
Sorafenib Nexavar Kinase Inhibitor  
Streptozocin Zanosar Alkylating agent Nitrosurea
Sunitinib Sutent Kinase Inhibitor  
Tagraxofusp-erzs Elzonris “CD123-directed cytotoxin”  
Talazoparib Talzenna PARP Inhibitor  
Talimogene laherparepvec Imlygic oncolytic herpes virus  
Tamoxifen Nolvadex, Istubal, and Valodex Aromatase inhibitor  
Tazemetostat Tazverik Enzyme inhibitor  
Temozolomide Temodar, Temodal Alkylating agent  
Temsirolimus Torisel mTOR Inhibitor  
Teniposide Vumon, VM-26 topoisomerase II inhibitor plant alkaloid
Thalidomide Thalomid Immunomodulatory imide  
Thioguanine Tabloid Antimetabolites  
Thiotepa Thioplex Alkylating agent  
Tisagenlecleucel Kymriah adoptive cell transfer  
Topotecan Hycamtin Topoisomerase inhibitor  
Toremifene Fareston Hormone Suppressant  
Tositumomab Bexxar antibody-drug conjugate  
Trabectedin Yondelis Alkylating Agent  
Trametinib Mekinist Kinase Inhibitor of MEK1 and MEK2  
Trastuzumab Herceptin Monoclonal Antibody  
Tretinonin Vesanoid Retinoid  
Trifluridine/Tipiricil Lonsurf Antimetabolite  
Triptorelin Trelstar Hormone Suppressant  
Tucatinib Tukysa Kinase Inhibitor  
Valrubicin Valstar Anthracycline  
Vandetanib Caprelsa Kinase Inhibitor  
Vemurafenib Zelboraf BRAF kinase inhibitor  
Venetoclax Venclexta BCL-2 Inhibitor  
Vinblastine Velban Vinca Alkaloid  
Vincristine Vincasar Pfs Vinca Alkaloid  
Vindesine Eldisine Vinca Alkaloid  
Vinorelbine Navelbine Vinca Alkaloid  
Vismodegib Erivedge Hedgehog Pathway Inhibitor  
Vorinostat Zolinza HDAC inhibitor  
Zanubrutinib Brukinsa BTK inhibitor  
Ziv-aflibercept Zaltrap VEGF inhibitor  

Explanation of how medicines are named

Spreadsheet of chemotherapy agents: ListofCTX

Spreadsheet of chemotherapy agents: All Chemotherapy Agents

Properties we want in anti-cancer medicines

How would you attack a cancerous cell? In a body full of trillions of cells, how do you get the cancerous ones and not the healthy ones.  It’s not easy, and devising a method that can kill only malignant cells while leaving normal cells unscathed is a holy grail of cancer.

If we could have the ideal chemotherapy drug, what characteristics would it have? Some ideas:

  • Would work both to cure cancer and to prevent it
  • Easy to give to patients, avoids needles or extended administration times.  Oral administration in a pill might be ideal
  • Has no negative effect from chronic administration
  • Rapidly shrinks tumor and/or kills cancer cells with no effect on non-cancerous cells.  In other words, has high specificity for cancer.

And what biochemical targets would these drugs aim at?  Perhaps those:

  • High level of expression in neoplastic tissue
  • Important in pathogenesis of cancer
  • Not important in regular functioning of tissue
  • Susceptible to pharmacological disruption
  • If you inhibit the target, you stop or slow the cancer

The earliest antineoplastic compounds aimed at cellular reproduction. One way malignant cells differ is in that they reproduce more quickly than other cells. If you send in a drug to disrupt the mitosis (cell dividing) process, you can affect fast-multiplying cancerous cells more than normal cells. And this is the method by which most chemotherapy drugs have their effects. Kill the cells while they divide. We say the drugs are cytotoxic.

Of course the specificity is not even close to perfect, which means many healthy cells are inadvertently killed. That’s why chemotherapy drugs have severe side effects.

This also explains why side effects show up where they do. In the cancer-free body some cells multiply faster than others. Cells in the bone marrow, skin, lining of the digestive system, for instance, grow faster than most cells, and that’s why common side effects include anemia, skin rashes, and nausea.

The cell reproduction cycle is complex and different chemotherapy drugs attack different points in the cycle, so we see somewhat different side effects from different drugs.

This is why chemo nay-sayers say chemo is poison. The difference between a poison and a medicine is at least partly in the intent of the administrator.

Liver and Kidney damage

The body eliminates foreign substances largely through action of the kidneys and liver. The liver metabolizes foreign substances – that is – it chemically transforms them to different materials. If these foreign substances are poisons, the liver might be able to make them non-poisonous, or less poisonous. The kidneys are super-filters that remove unusual materials from the bloodstream. When the kidneys function correctly, foreign substances are sent to the urine stream and they exit the body.

Because they are at the front line in the war against poison, the kidneys and liver often take the most damage, and emergency room doctors know to check liver and kidney function when a patient has swallowed something hazardous. Likewise, liver and kidney damage happens during chemotherapy treatment and is a particular danger if the dose is too high. The assault on these organs is fundamentally different from the side effects chemotherapy bring; damage to the liver and kidneys is acute and often causes immediate cessation of the cancer treatment. Further, if the cancer itself damages the liver or kidneys, options for chemotherapy treatment are reduced.

Popular combination regimens for chemotherapy.

The economics and market structure of the chemotherapy industry.

Chemotherapy agents on WHO List of Essential Medicines.