Overload

Chemotherapy drugs

Category: Medicines

Type

Involuntary and voluntary

Introduction and description

 

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells coupled with malignant behavior: invasion and metastasis. It is "thought to be caused by the interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental toxins".  The section on cancer provides more details.  Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs or with a combination of such drugs.  Chemotherapy may be given with a curative intent or it may simply aim to prolong life a little or palliate symptoms.

Chemotherapy acts by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells. In the broad sense, most chemotherapeutic drugs work by impairing mitosis (cell division), effectively targeting fast-dividing cells.  Tumors with high growth fractions (such as acute myelogenous leukemia and the aggressive lymphomas, including Hodgkin's disease) are more sensitive to chemotherapy, as a larger proportion of the targeted cells are undergoing cell division at any time. Malignancies with slower growth rates, such as indolent lymphomas, tend to respond to chemotherapy much more modestly.

You need to catch the cancer early on for chemotherapy to be effective.   Drugs affect "younger" tumors more effectively, because mechanisms regulating cell growth are usually still preserved. With succeeding generations of tumor cells, differentiation is typically lost, growth becomes less regulated, and tumors become less responsive to most chemotherapeutic agents.  Over time, cancer cells also become more resistant to chemotherapy treatments.

Near the centre of some solid tumors, cell division has effectively ceased, making them insensitive to chemotherapy. Another problem with solid tumors is the fact that the chemotherapeutic agent often does not reach the core of the tumor. This is when the doctor has to resort to radiation therapy and surgery.

The main types of approach used in chemotherapy are:

  • Combined modality chemotherapy  -  the use of drugs with other cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery. Most cancers are now treated in this way.
  • Combination chemotherapy the use of a number of different drugs simultaneously. Each drug differs in their mechanism and side effects. The objective of using many drugs is to minimise the chances of resistance developing to any one agent.
  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy -  is designed to shrink the primary tumour, thereby rendering local therapy (surgery or radiotherapy) less destructive or more effective.
  • Adjuvant chemotherapy - is used when there is little evidence of cancer present, but there is risk of recurrence. It is useful in killing any cancerous cells which have spread to other parts of the body.
  • Palliative chemotherapy is given without curative intent, but simply to decrease tumor load and increase life expectancy. For these regimens, a better toxicity profile is generally expected.

Because only a fraction of the cells in a tumor die with each treatment, repeated doses must be administered to continue to reduce the size of the tumor. Current chemotherapy regimens apply drug treatment in cycles, with the frequency and duration of treatments limited by toxicity to the patient.
The majority of chemotherapeutic drugs can be divided into

  • alkylating agents
  • antimetabolites
  • anthracyclines
  • plant alkaloids
  • topoisomerase inhibitors
  • and other antitumour agents.

All of these drugs affect cell division or DNA synthesis and function in some way.

Some newer agents do not directly interfere with DNA. These include monoclonal antibodies and the new tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which directly targets a molecular abnormality in certain types of cancer.  In addition, some drugs that modulate tumor cell behaviour without directly attacking those cells may be used. Hormone treatments fall into this category.

Side-effects

Cancer is an aggressive disease, as such one should expect the drugs employed to have to be aggressive in their action. 

Friendly fire casualty - All these drugs cause damage to cells  - not just cancer cells, as such they are  termed cytotoxic. Some drugs cause cells to undergo apoptosis (so-called "self programmed cell death").
Scientists have yet to identify specific features of malignant and immune cells that would make them uniquely targetable. This means that other fast-dividing cells, such as those responsible for hair growth, cells in the bone marrow and for replacement of the intestinal epithelium (lining), are also often affected and harmed.
This results in the most common side effects of chemotherapy:

  • Myelosuppression - decreased production of blood cells, hence also immunosuppression
  • Mucositis - inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract
  • and alopecia (hair loss).

Damage to the immune system - Immunosuppression is probably the most serious side effect.  It is that bit more serious when one realises what causes many cancers - parasites, bacteria and viruses, along with toxins. 
Our immune system is a system of biological structures and processes that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own healthy cells and tissues in order to function properly.  Detection is complicated as pathogens can evolve rapidly, and adapt to avoid the immune system and allow the pathogens to successfully infect their hosts.
Suppress the immune system and we lay ourselves open to any number of diseases and problems caused by external agents – and many many diseases are caused by external agents.  And there is the real possibility that whatever caused the cancer lies hidden and resurfaces with renewed vigour.

Although patients are encouraged to wash their hands, avoid sick people, and to take other infection-reducing steps, about 85% of infections are "due to naturally occurring microorganisms in the patient's own gastrointestinal tract (including oral cavity) and skin. This may manifest as systemic infections, such as sepsis, pneumonia, or as localized outbreaks, such as Herpes simplex, shingles, or other members of the Herpesviridea.   Sometimes, chemotherapy treatments are postponed because the immune system is suppressed to a critically low level".  This is an interesting quote because it rather implies that the herpes  virus was the original cause of the cancer.  Pneumonia can be caused by parasites, viruses and bacteria, as such there is the implication that one or more of these were already present and have simply surfaced.

Loss of blood and haemorrhaging - Patients can haemmorrhage.  Medications that kill rapidly dividing cells or blood cells reduce the number of platelets in the blood, which can result in bruises and bleeding. Sometimes, chemotherapy treatments are postponed to allow platelet counts to recover.

Nausea and vomiting  - are common side effects of chemotherapeutic medications that kill fast-dividing cells. There can also be diarrhea or constipation. Malnutrition and dehydration can result when the patient doesn't eat or drink enough, or when the patient vomits frequently, because of gastrointestinal damage.

Organ damage - Damage to specific organs may occur, with resultant symptoms:

How it works

As you can see from the side effects, the mechanisms by which any spiritual experiences obtained via these drugs are many.  Hypertension, hyperglycaemia, liver damage and kidney damage, brain damage or heart damage, for example, are all capable in themselves of giving you a spiritual experience, whether a hallucination or OOB or even a NDE!

Thus there is no one cause, there are multiple causes as we will see from the drug descriptions [I have provided examples of the side effects in each class]  and if we want to see how these work to give us an experience we need to go to the relevant sections – the ones on pneumonia, pancreatitis, renal failure, liver failure, heart failure, meningitis, tuberculosis, anaemia, brain damage, ……………. And so on and so on.

If you have cancer  you will undoubtedly consider these drugs to be a necessary evil – the intervention has bought you time  - it may even cure you.  But the risk is high,  during that time you may well develop other diseases as a result of the chemotherapy treatment  – c’est la vie.

In the end, what do you want to die from?

Observations

The total number of hallucinations as described on the eHealthme web site and correct as at 2009, is shown in the table below.  I have not summed the table, as it is possible that one observation may have been counted more than once as some are used in combination therapies and some names are synonyms for other drugs in the list.  I have provided a link through to the eHealthme site so that you can get an up-to-date description of side-effects and also hallucination numbers

Pharmaceutical

No of hallucinations

Cisplatin

25

Oxaliplatin

8

Carboplatin

11

Paraplatin

14

Accutane

93

Adriamycin

33

Doxorubicin

27

Doxil

33

Paclitaxel

8

Taxol

3

Paraplatin

14

Carboplatin

11

Podophyllotoxin

10

Etoposide

10

Vepesid

11

Vincristine

27

Related observations