cytotoxic drug

views updated

cytotoxic drug (sy-toh-toks-ik) n. a drug that damages or destroys cells and is used to treat various types of cancer. There are various classes of cytotoxic drugs, including alkylating agents, antimetabolites, anthracycline antibiotics, vinca alkaloids, platinum compounds (e.g. carboplatin), and taxanes. They destroy cancer cells by inhibiting cell division but also affect normal cells, causing side-effects, particularly in bone marrow (see myelosuppression), skin (causing hair loss), stomach lining (causing severe nausea and vomiting), and fetal tissue; dosage must therefore be carefully controlled.