Hydroxyurea

Brand Names

Hydria®, Droxia (There may be other brand names for this medication)

How is it Administered?

Hydroxyurea is taken by mouth (as a capsule).

What is it Used For?

This drug is given to treat several kinds of cancer including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma of head or neck, chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML), and recurrent, metastatic, or inoperable ovarian cancer.

How Does it Work?

Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Both normal and cancer cells go through cycles that include a resting phase, active growing phases, and division. Your chemotherapy schedule is based upon the type of cancer you have, the rate at which they divide, and the times when each drug is the most likely to be effective. This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.

Hydroxyurea is in a class of drugs known as antimetabolites (specifically a ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor), drugs that interrupt the cell cycle. Antimetabolites are very similar to normal substances within the cell. When the drug is taken into the cell, the cell is unable todivide(reproduce). If the cells are unable to divide, they die.

The faster cells are dividing (reproducing), the more likely it is that chemotherapy will damage/kill the cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not know the difference between cancer cells and normal cells that reproduce frequently. The cells in your body that are the most likely to be affected by chemotherapy are the cells that line the digestive tract (mouth, stomach, intestines), hair follicles, and blood cells.

These normal cells will eventually grow back and be healthy. During treatment, however, you may experience side effects from the chemotherapy’s effects on these normally fast reproducing cells including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, and decreased blood counts. Low blood counts may cause fatigue, anemia, and a significant decrease in your ability to fight off infections.

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