During your cancer treatment you will be given many different drugs in addition to your chemotherapy drugs. Many of them are to control the side effects, and many are also to manage other health conditions that can be aggravated by chemotherapy. This list is not intended to be an exhaustive or comprehensive list. It is just to give you an idea of what to expect at some point in your treatment history.
These drugs are usually called antiemetics and they are a chemotherapy patients best friend. The days of nausea an vomiting are for the most part only part of TV movies and not part of the life of most chemotherapy patients. These drugs do an amazing job of not just reducing nausea and vomiting, but for most patients they totally eliminate it, and allow you to live a relatively normal life during your treatment.
The most common one, and perhaps the best of them is Ondanzetron (brand name Zofran in the U.S.) Ondanzetron is usually given as one 8mg pill twice per day. For many patients all that is needed is 3-4 pills (36-48 hour supply). Most patients will find that with Ondanzetron there will be no nausea or vomiting at all. To learn more about Ondanzetron click the link below
Granisetron (brand name Kytril in the U.S.) is another drug that is highly effective. To learn more about Granisetron click the link below:
Prochlorperazine is another anti-emetic. (Brand name Compazine in the U.S. and Stemetil in Canada). Although effective, it is not as effective as Ondanzetron or Granisetron, and it comes with a long list of side effects which may be too bothersome for many patients. It is also used as a tranquilizer in some situations. To read more about Prochlorperazine click the link below:
Neupogen - Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (or G-CSF) helps stimulate the production of Neutrophils. Neutrophils are the infection fighting white blood cells, so Neupogen can help prevent chemotherapy induced neutropenia, and opportunistic infections. Its use during regular chemotherapy is not required, but often used anyway, especially for patients who already have compromised white cell counts. During stem cell/bone marrow transplants it is almost 100% certain the patient will be given Neupogen injections. Injections are given daily, usually at the 5mcg per kilogram of body weight dose, for one week or longer. To read more about Neupogen click the link below.
Neulasta (Peg Filgrastim)
Neulasta is the once per chemotherapy cycle version of Neupogen. Instead of daily injections just one injection is required for each cycle of chemotherapy. For more information about Neulasta click the link below:
Procrit (Epoetin Alfa) is a red blood cell stimulating factor. It helps boost the red blood cell production and reduce chemotherapy induced anaemia. Anaemia can be a major cause of fatigue for cancer patients, and since the red blood cells take much longer to recover than the white ones do, anaemia can last much longer than neutropenia. To read more about Procrit click the link below:
Epogen (Epoetin Alfa) is another version brand of red blood cell booster. To read more about Epogen click the link below:
Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) is the long lasting versIon of Epogen. Instead of daily injections you need only weekly injections. Note that both Epogen and Aranesp are aimed at patients with dialysis induced anaemia. While they can be used for chemotherapy induced anaemia they are not suitable for all patients in this situation. Your doctor will advise you if you are a candidate for either of them. To read more about Aranesp click the link below:
Miscellaneous support drugs
Lasix is commonly used during Stem Cell Transplant when the patient is undergoing hyperhydration. Hyperhydration simply means the patient is receiving massive amounts of hydration to protect the vital organs like the kidneys, bladder and liver from the toxic effects of the high dose chemotherapy used for SCT. If these drugs are allowed to remain in the kidneys, bladder or liver too long, permanent damage may occur so the patient is pumped full of water to keep them flushed and clean.
However pumping this much water into a patient also leads to bloating or edema.
This build up of water can not only make the patient very bloated, but it can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems. Therefore if this fluid retention becomes a problem then a diuretic is administered to rid the body of this excess fluid. Each medical centre may have a different "danger" level, but approximately 1.5 litres is the point at which they will consider Lasix administration. This means that when you have consumed (by IV or mouth) 1.5 litres more fluid than you have excreted by urination, then they will administer Lasix. Most patients undergoing an SCT are required to measure their liquid input and output throughout their hospital stay.
When administered intravenously Lasix works very quickly, as soon as 5 minutes. The patient will find themselves urinating large quantities about every 15-30 minutes, however the effect wears off in about 2 hours.
One side effect of Lasix is that in addition to depleting the amount of fluid in your body, it also upsets the natural electrolyte balance of your blood. In particular potassium levels may be lowered dangerously so often a potassium supplement must be given.
To read more about Furosemide click the link below
Mesna is a drug used primarily to protect from hemorrhagic cystitis during high doses of Ifosphamide or Cyclophosphamide. "Hemorrhagic cystitis" means bleeding of the urinary bladder. High dose Cyclophosphamide or Ifosphamide are most likely to be administered during an SCT. However depending on the protocol either of these drugs could be administered in high doses, necessitating the use of Mesna or Hyperhydration. As noted above, hyperhydration is also an effective option for preventing major organ damage when using high doses of some chemotherapeutic drugs.
To read more about Mesna click either of the links below.