Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with one or more cytotoxic anti-neoplastic drugs (chemotherapeutic agents) as part of a standardized regimen. The term encompasses any of a large variety of different anticancer drugs, which are divided into broad categories such as alkylating agents and antimetabolites. Traditional chemotherapeutic agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

Targeted therapy is a form of chemotherapy that targets specific molecular differences between cancer and normal cells. The first targeted therapies to be developed blocked the estrogen receptor molecule, inhibiting the growth of breast cancer. Another common example is the class of Bcr-Abl inhibitors, which are used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Currently, there are targeted therapies for breast cancer, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, prostate cancer,melanoma and other cancers. The efficacy of chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer and the stage. In combination with surgery, chemotherapy has proven useful in a number of different cancer types including: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, osteogenic sarcoma, testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, and certain lung cancers. The overall effectiveness ranges from being curative for some cancers, such as some leukemias, to being ineffective, such as in some brain tumors to being needless in others, like most non-melanoma skin cancers.] The effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Even when it is impossible for chemotherapy to provide a permanent cure, chemotherapy may be useful to reduce symptoms like pain or to reduce the size of an inoperable tumor in the hope that surgery will be possible in the future.

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