In 2013, the United States was said to have an estimated 1.6 million cancer patients. The majority of cancer patients turn to chemotherapy in hope to kill off all the spreading cancer cells so they can have a chance to live again. Chemotherapy is defined as the use of any drug to treat any disease, however people most commonly associate chemotherapy with drugs used to treat cancer. Although chemotherapy could be very effective, the rate of success solely depends on the type of cancer the patient has and could potentially be only one or two percent successful.
Cancer is a method by which normal cells of the body mutate and develop quickly into abnormal cells. As early as the 1880s, the only method of treatment of cancer was a radical surgery. This same method of treatment continued into the 1980s. Before chemotherapy, people were treated with comfort measures, meaning they were given drugs to help relieve the pain until they died. Also, before the 1950s, if you were admitted into a hospital with a cancer that could not be treated with surgery, it was understood you were there to die. In the beginning of the 20th century, treatment for cancer consisted of removing small cancers and those that were easily removed by surgery. Later on, radiation therapy was used to prevent the growth of those tumors that were not removed during surgery; then, chemotherapy was used to remove even smaller tumors that could not be removed by surgery or treated by radiation.
The chemotherapy drug did not start out as a treatment at all. A chemical agent known as mustard gas was used in combat during World War I, and later studied during World War II. It was found to be effective in fighting the cancers of the bone marrow cells. This cancer, known as Lymphoma, was the result of the exposure that soldiers had to mustard gas. As research went on, scientists found a compound of mustard gas, called nitrogen mustard, was effective at fighting Lymphoma. The nitrogen mustard agent became the model for future effective agents that were able to kill quickly growing cancer cells by damaging the cells’ DNA. Not long after the discovery of the benefits of the nitrogen mustard agent, well known pediatric pathologist Sidney Farber, discovered a compound related to the vitamin folic acid. In his research, he discovered a compound which was named aminopterin. He identified its effectiveness in treating acute leukemia in children and its use produced remissions in many children. It was the use of the chemical compound, aminopterin, which started scientists discovering other drugs to treat various types of cancer. Aminopterin became the prototype for methotrexate, which is a commonly used chemotherapy drug today.
In the beginning of the 1900s, Paul Ehrlich began developing drugs to treat extremely harmful diseases like cancer. He was actually the first person who created the name “chemotherapy”, and gave it the definition of using chemicals to treat diseases. He was the first...