The toxic effects that accompany the traditional chemotherapeutic regimes and the incidence of chemoresistance that is occasionally encountered in certain patients are two major drawbacks associated with this therapy. Metronomic Chemotherapy differs from traditional chemo principally in dosage level and frequency. Where traditional chemotherapy is typically high dosage, Metronomic Chemotherapy refers to low doses of chemotherapy, continuously administered and with frequent breaks and which specifically target the endothelial cells which line the blood vessels supplying tumour cells. This (targeted administration) has the effect of blocking new blood cells from feeding the cancer cells (effectively starving them). This could open up a new frontier in the way that cancer is treated and go some way towards rehabilitating chemotherapy’s much battered reputation.

Treating Head and Neck Cancer with Metronomic Chemotherapy

Metronomic Chemotherapy (MC) is poised to change the way certain cancers are treated. Of particular interest is the treatment of head and neck cancer. Head and neck cancer mainly targets (though not exclusively) the ears, nose and throat.

A swelling or sore that does not go away in four weeks is usually the first sign of head and neck cancer.  A lump in the neck, nose or throat may indicate the presence of this disease. Red or white patches in the mouth and a foul odour from the mouth (which persists in spite of the usual oral hygiene interventions) are also two potential indications of head and neck cancer. A nasal obstruction, jaw and ear pains, difficulty in breathing, numbness or any appreciable weakening of any body part or tissue of the head and neck are all possible signs of the presence of head and neck cancer.

Unusual nose discharges and frequent nosebleeds, blood streaked saliva and phlegm, a newly noticed difficulty in chewing and swallowing (or indeed any trouble at all in moving the jaw and tongue and a loosening of teeth) may point to head and neck cancer.  A persistent sore throat sometimes accompanied by dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and the onset of hoarseness or a general change in the voice are all potential signs of head and neck cancer. Headaches, ear pain (with or without the attendant hearing trouble), a persistent cough and unexplained weight loss could all add up to head and neck cancer. Fatigue is a symptom that accompanies practically all cancers and head and neck cancer is not an exception.

The signs and symptoms of Head and Neck cancer have been laid out in rather elaborate detail here. It is important to be on the lookout for them as this is a cancer that may rob one of clear and critical thinking, given its location. The need to educate family members on the signs of this disease cannot be gainsaid as they (family members) are the first responders should anything untoward happens.  

Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy and Surgery (the traditional Oncology responses to cancer) have improved over the years. This improvement has however not translated to a higher survival rate for neck and head cancer patients. The high doses of chemotherapeutic drugs (administered in cycles with temporary breaks) have seen no appreciable variation in the statistics. Meanwhile the use of Metronomic Chemotherapy has been shown to significantly improve the lives of neck and head cancer patients while avoiding the toxic effects of traditional chemotherapy. The potential benefits of MC would be welcome news for the more than 60 000 new patients diagnosed with squamous cell cancer of the head and neck every year.

A New Weapon to Tackle Pancreatic Cancer

Meanwhile the poor prognosis associated with pancreatic cancer, even when diagnosed early, make it one of the most dreaded diseases known to man. Partly due to its stealth-like nature (it is seldom detected in its early stages) and the speed with which it spreads, three to six months is often the time patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer can usually expect to live. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer will typically appear when the disease is at an advanced stage. Uncomfortable to live with ( subjecting one to upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back, loss of appetite, depression, weight loss, blood clots and jaundice) and devastating to the body, pancreatic cancer has a new weapon to contend with.  In one case study a patient with advanced with metastatic pancreatic carcinoma underwent a course of Metronomic Chemotherapy (using a combination of several drugs) and far from the usual ‘optimistic’ 6 months that is a pancreatic patient’s best outlook the patient in the case, 5 years after the initial diagnosis, is not only alive and well but has returned to work and has participated in a bicycle marathon covering a distance of 281.6 kilometres.

Starving Ovarian Cancer Cells Using Metronomic Chemotherapy

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer among women worldwide. The World Cancer Research Fund International reported a figure of 239 000 new cases in 2012 alone. The lack of symptoms in its early stages means that the disease is usually at an advanced stage when it is first diagnosed. Studies are currently underway to study the effectiveness of Metronomic Chemotherapy in treating ovarian cancer. Traditional chemotherapy in treating this disease will inevitably produce the much-feared side effects of extreme fatigue, numbness and nausea as well as tingling in the fingers and toes. Hair loss is also a common chemotherapy side effect. In a study involving mice researchers carried out an in vivo study and, using metronomic therapy alongside chemotherapy, were able to effectively decrease the number of blood vessels that fed the ovarian cancer cells. This led, naturally, to the death of the cancerous cells. Further tests are ongoing in this field.

Metronomic Chemotherapy is Already in Use

It is important to note, however, that safe and effective Integrative Cancer Treatments (which incorporate Metronomic Therapy as part of primary cancer treatments) have been around for a while. Indeed this natural and easily tolerated form of chemotherapy, when used alongside other therapies, has shown remarkable results and is an integral form of any Integrative Cancer Treatments. It is a particularly viable option for patients living with advanced cancer. Tolerable doses (a key feature of Metronomic Chemotherapy) which translate to considerably reduced toxicity as well as the demonstrated effectiveness of this therapy makes Metronomic Chemotherapy a much preferred alternative to the heavy dosages associated with  traditional chemotherapy.

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