Cyclophosphamide is an FDA-approved chemotherapeutic agent used to treat several cancers, including breast cancer, leukemia, and ovarian cancer. It can be administered orally with a tablet or by intravenous infusion, treating cancer systemically. Even though it is still in the testing phase for mesothelioma, physicians see it as a promising option.
Cyclophosphamide is given once or twice daily, or intravenously every other week. Dosing and duration of treatment is dependent upon, among other things, patient response and side effects.
How Cyclophosphamide Works
Cyclophosphamide is an alkylating agent. This means it stops tumor growth by “sticking” to the DNA of cancer cells. DNA is the heart and brain of the cell controlling everything it does. Once cyclophosphamide sticks to the DNA of cancer cells, the cell can no longer divide and subsequently dies. In clinical trials, mesothelioma patients often receive the drug once every two weeks.
Common side effects include general side effects of chemotherapy, such as:
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
Additional side effects may include:
- Abdominal or chest pain
- Shortness of breath
One serious side effect observed after long term use, however, is an increased risk of developing other types of cancer, such as bladder cancer.
Study Results and Potential Benefits of Cyclophosphamide
As mentioned, cyclophosphamide is in the early stages of use for mesothelioma treatment. Among patients undergoing radiation therapy, cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin were administered together with an observed decrease in tumor size by roughly 25 percent. Median survival times also increased to 13 months. This is a significant increase from the six-month median survival of patients who received only radiation. However, in this study, cyclophosphamide was only administered to patients who responded well to radiation therapy and were 70 years old or younger.
A study performed in 2010 evaluated progression-free survival when cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and platinum-based chemotherapy were administered together. The progression-free survival among those receiving this combination therapy was only 1.5 months. This is significantly lower when compared to the median of 12.3 months achieved when pemetrexed and platinum-based chemotherapy agents were given. Research continues to be performed evaluating survival rates when combining cyclophosphamide with immunotherapy and other chemotherapeutic agents.
As clinical trials continue, physicians are hopeful that cyclophosphamide is a promising treatment for mesothelioma. Studies are testing the drug in combination with other chemotherapy agents or immunotherapy to evaluate results.