Methotrexate

Other Names

MTX, Amethopterin (injections), Trexall®, and Rheumatrex® (oral). (There may be other brand names for this medication.)

How is it Administered?

Methotrexate can be given as an injection into muscle, an infusion into a vein (intravenous or IV) or as an infusion into the area around the brain and spinal cord (Intrathecal infusion). Methotrexate is also available as a tablet to be taken by mouth. Your doctor will determine how your medication is given depending on the type of cancer being treatment and other factors.

Why am I Taking Methotrexate?

This drug is used to treat cancer of the breast, head and neck, lung, stomach and esophagus. It is also used to treat sarcoma, some types of lymphoma and leukemia, and gestational trophoblastic cancer — a rare cancer that grows in the tissues that form following conception.

Methotrexate is also used to treat noncancerous conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and severe psoriasis.

How Does it Work?

Cancers are diseases in which abnormal cells reproduce uncontrollably.

Your chemo schedule is based upon:

  • your cancer type and how fast the cancer cells reproduce
  • the phase of the cell cycle when the chemo is most effective — the resting, growing, or reproduction phases

With these factors in mind, your doctors create a chemo schedule to give each medication when it will do the most damage to the cancer cells.

Methotrexate is in a class of drugs known as antimetabolites, drugs that interrupt the cell cycle. It is similar to a nutrient (folic acid) that cancer cells need to grow. The cancer cells take in the methotrexate as if it was food, but once inside the cell, it stops them from reproducing.

Many chemo medications identify and attack cancer cells because they reproduce quickly. Some normal cells in your body also reproduce quickly and they are likely to be damaged/destroyed by chemo. These normal cells will eventually grow back and be healthy. During treatment, however, you may experience side effects from chemotherapy’s effects on these cells.

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