Last Updated on Apr 12, 2019

Functions of Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy is carried out with an intent to cure cancer or to prevent its recurrence.

Chemotherapy can be given to completely cure a cancer or can be given before or after surgery or radiotherapy. It may also be given, at an advanced stage, as a part of palliative care. The objective of the treatment depends on the stage of the disease.

  • To cure cancer - In certain cancers, such as acute leukemia or testicular cancers, chemotherapy can achieve a complete cure. Often it is given in combination with radiotherapy.This is known as chemo-irradiation or Chemoradiotherapy.
  • Before surgery or Neo-adjuvant therapy - Sometimes when a tumor is large, there occurs a need to reduce its size before surgery .Chemotherapy is then employed to reduce the tumor size, and this is known as primary chemotherapy or neo-adjuvant therapy.
  • To reduce recurrance after surgery or adjuvant therapy– Chemotherapy is sometimes carried out after surgery or radiotherapy. This is to destroy the remaining cancer cells that have escaped destruction.This treatment is called adjuvant therapy.
  • To control cancer by reducing symptoms or Palliative chemotherapy - When a complete cure is not possible, as in the case of advanced cancers, chemotherapy helps to shrink the cancer and reduce the symptoms. This helps to usher in better quality of life besides increasing the chances of survival. This mode of therapy is known as palliative chemotherapy.


  1. MacDiarmid J.A. et al. (2007)
  2. "Bacterially Derived 400 nm Particles for Encapsulation and Cancer Cell Targeting of Chemotherapeutics" Cancer Cell 11, 431-445, May 2007


Podhigai_Arasan Tuesday, July 8, 2014

very nice and informative. I got all the information i searched for. Thank you medindia.

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