Chemotherapy is helpful in controlling the growth of high-grade gliomas. Several different types of chemotherapy drugs are used. For many high-grade gliomas, radiation and chemotherapy are given at the same time. Generally, the chemotherapy is a drug called temozolomide (Temodar). A small dose is taken each day during the course of radiation. Once radiation is completed, patients take a higher dose of the drug for 5 straight days every 4 weeks. However, decisions are individualized to each patient.
New treatment plans call for highly personalized drug cocktails. New technologies are now allowing doctors to examine the genes that make-up cancerous brain tumors and in turn, shows the doctor which drugs will have the greatest effect.
Chemotherapy affects rapidly growing tumor cells but can also harm healthy, fast-growing cells and thus produce side effects. The cells that are most commonly affected are the cells in your bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, some patients:
- Tire easily because of a low red blood cell count
- Catch infection easily because of a low white blood cell count
- Bleed easily from low platelets
- Have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea