An Introduction to the Use of Anticancer Drugs


Imran Rafi
Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann (2006)
ISBN: 0-7506-8830-0   194 pages plus index
RRP: $75.00

As suggested by the title, this book will provide healthcare workers who come into contact with cancer patients with an overview of the principles of drug treatments in this rapidly evolving field. The author, a senior lecturer in general practice and primary care with a special interest in oncology, identifies medical students, doctors in all medical specialties, general practitioners, pharmacists and nurses as the book’s intended audience. Although clearly not written for those who specialise in preparing, prescribing or delivering anticancer drugs, this text is ideally suited to students or clinicians seeking an introductory text on cancer drug therapy.

The first chapter presents an introduction to the principles of drug therapy in cancer, giving 10 pages over to a brief review of the role and limitations of this treatment modality, tumour growth models, the mechanism of action of the major drug classifications and treatment scheduling. The following chapter provides the reader with an introduction to the principles and conduct of clinical trials of anticancer drugs and the related regulatory, ethical and quality of life issues.

Perhaps the most useful chapters in this text are chapters three, four and five, comprising almost two-thirds of the book. These chapters provide summaries of the properties, clinical use and toxicities of individual anticancer drugs, presented by classification. Toxicities of cancer drug therapies to each body system are discussed and tumour-specific descriptions of common drug therapy protocols are presented. The treatment of breast, colorectal, lung, head and neck and other common solid tumours are discussed. Despite addressing the management of multiple myeloma and lymphomas, leukaemia does not appear.

In the final chapters, emerging treatment options are addressed, both in general terms and by major tumour type and issues involving drug interactions in the cancer patient are flagged. Several of these chapters conclude with a short list of suggestions for further reading. A somewhat useful list of abbreviations and limited glossaries of cancer chemotherapy terms and regimes are included at the front of the book and an appendix provides a list of websites for both general cancer and tumour-specific information.

A particularly helpful feature of this book is the précis provided on issues in the treatment of each of the specific tumours discussed, providing a neat summary of the biology, treatment options, common protocols and treatment for some cancers. An accompanying reference list suggests important studies worth review for each tumour type. These will be helpful to readers who are looking to rapidly review the state of knowledge in regards to therapy for particular cancers. However, despite (or perhaps because of) its brevity, this readily portable text will provide a useful and easy-to-navigate introductory reference to drug therapy in cancer.

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