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Cancer drug screening: the historical perspective

Chemotherapy with cytotoxic and growth inhibitory drugs have played an important role in cancer therapy, used either alone or in combination with other treatment modalities such as surgery, radiation or biological therapy. Chemotherapy, in most instances, was the only alternative treatment for metastatic cancer – mainly given as drug combinations…

Conventional chemotherapy has shown to produce better response rates for many tumours resulting in the cure of a considerable percentage of these patients. However, the chemotherapeutic treatment has proved to be poorly effective, especially for patients presented in advanced stage of cancer. The first documented use of clinical chemotherapy was observed in 1942, when the alkylating agent nitrogen mustard (belonging to the class of drugs acting through alkylation of DNA) was used to obtain brief clinical remission in a patient with lymphoma.1 Subsequently, various reports indicated the activity in Hodgkin´s disease, lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic and myelocytic leukaemia. With increasing knowledge of basic cellular biochemistry, another class of antitumour agents, the antimetabolites, were discovered.2

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