Medication therapy

Alongside surgery and radiation, medication therapy forms one of the pillars of cancer therapy. Unlike surgery and radiation, medication therapy acts not only locally at the site of application, but systemically throughout the body. Medical therapies include the classic chemotherapies as well as targeted therapies and immunotherapies.

The active substances applied in chemotherapy are called cytostatic drugs. The cytostatic drugs interfere with the growth, proliferation and survival of tumor cells through various mechanisms. The effect of cytostatic drugs is better when tumor cells are in the sensitive growth and multiplication phase of the cell cycle. Therefore, fast-growing tumors are usually well treatable with chemotherapy. However, there are also healthy tissues in the body that divide rapidly, such as bone marrow cells for hematopoiesis, hair and mucous membranes. Since cytostatic drugs do not act specifically on tumor cells, the therapy can also damage these healthy body cells.

This results in the occurrence of typical chemotherapy side effects. In most cases, chemotherapy is applied via the vein (intravenously). Another form of application is as a tablet (orally).

A precondition for the use of targeted therapies is the presence of a vulnerable structure on or in the tumor cells. This is investigated in the course of immunohistochemical and molecular pathological diagnostics on the tumor material. These vulnerable structures include, for example, markers on the cell surface or molecules of signal transduction within the cell that ensure the survival of the tumor cells. Modulation of these structures by targeted therapy leads to tumor cell death. However, the structures that can be attacked also occur to a lesser extent on and in healthy cells. Therefore, these drugs also have side effects. Targeted therapies can be administered intravenously, orally, or as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous).

Immunotherapies (e.g., checkpoint inhibitors) enable the body's immune system to better recognize tumor cells and then fight them. However, activation of the immune system can lead to an excessive immune response in healthy tissue, so side effects may result. Immunotherapies are administered intravenously.

In interdisciplinary tumor boards, the best possible individual treatment recommendation is defined for each patient.

Medication therapy at NCT/UCC can be carried out on an outpatient basis in the day clinic or on an inpatient basis in one of the participating specialist clinics. In the NCT/UCC day clinic in the portal building (house 31c) and in the NCT/UCC new building (house 136), 60 treatment places are available (40 therapy chairs and 20 beds). Patients are treated and cared for during therapy by a professional team of physicians and nurses with special oncology training. Outpatient treatment should be easily accessible. We therefore also endeavor to refer patients to a cooperating hemato-oncological practice or clinic close to their place of residence.

All modern drug therapies are available at the NCT/UCC. In many cases, patients can also benefit from promising new approaches within the framework of studies.

For more information, visit the Cancer Information Service website: