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R-CHOP chemotherapy is a combination of chemotherapeutic agents used to treat a number of different cancers. Often a combination of drugs is used when trying to fight malignancies because each drug has a unique mechanism of action that attacks the cancer in a different way, thus inhibiting the growth and replication of the cancer on many fronts. Common side effects of R-CHOP chemotherapy can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, oral ulcers, anemia, and increased risk of infections.
When the term R-CHOP chemotherapy is used, the “R-CHOP” is understood as an acronym for different chemotherapeutic drugs. “R” stands for rituximab; “C” for cyclophosphamide; “H” for hydroxydaunorubicin, also known as doxorubicin; “O” for Oncovin®, also known as vincristine; and “P” for prednisone. Each of these five medications has a different mechanism of action. Using all five drugs together thus has a synergistic effect, attacking the cancer cells with a number of different approaches.
The combination of medications that make up R-CHOP chemotherapy can be used to treat a variety of cancers. Most often, however, it is used to treat cancers of the white blood cells or of the lymphatic system. Patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma often have a good response to this regimen of drugs, and treatment of this disease is one of the most common uses of R-CHOP chemotherapy. Subtypes of the disease, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma, are particularly susceptible to this regimen.
Patients can experience a wide variety of side effects on R-CHOP chemotherapy. As with many forms of chemotherapy, common side effects can include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and oral ulcers. The administration of the medications can be toxic to blood cells of the body, and decreased red blood cells leads to anemia, while decreased white blood cell concentrations can put patients at risk for infection. Patients taking this chemotherapy regimen are often subjected to routine blood tests and physical exams to monitor them for the development of some of these side effects.
Over 30 years ago, a chemotherapy regimen known as CHOP was developed, which included all of the components of R-CHOP with the exception of rituximab. This combination of chemotherapeutic agents was considered to be a standard and effective regimen for the treatment of lymphomas. Adding rituximab to this combination of drugs was first done in the early 2000s. Certain patients had increased remission of their cancer with R-CHOP compared to CHOP alone. Although some researchers debate whether R-CHOP or CHOP is more effective, both regimens have been used with success by oncologists.