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Anti-Cancer Peptide Medications

By Editorial Team (Y)
February 26, 2022

The treatment of cancer is possible with a variety of procedures and medications, and many more are currently being studied. Cancer treatment options are divided into “local” and “systemic” treatments. Surgery and therapy are examples of the “local” cancer treatment used for treating a particular tumor or area of the body. In turn, “systemic” treatment refers to the drug treatment (including immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy) and affects the entire body.
Cancer treatments can be divided into three categories based on the purpose of the treatment:

  1. Primary treatment aims to remove cancer entirely from the body or kill all cancerous cells.
  2. Adjuvant treatment is designed to kill all cancer cells that remain after primary treatment to decrease the risk of cancer reoccurring.
  3. Palliative treatment is used to relieve symptoms caused by cancer or side effects of the cancer treatment. Cancer patients can receive palliative treatment in conjunction with other cancer therapies meant to cure the disease.

Cancer medications

Cancer medication is classified according to how it works in the body. Most common anti-cancer drugs include alkylating agents, plant alkaloids, antimetabolites, corticosteroids, nitrosoureas, and anti-tumor antibiotics.

Alkylating agents

Alkylating agents are designed to damage cancer cells’ DNA to prevent their proliferation. The most common alkylating agents include:

  • ifosfamide
  • cisplatin
  • busulfan
  • thiotepa
  • oxaliplatin
  • dacarbazine
  • bendamustine
  • trabectedin
  • chlorambucil
  • melphalan
  • cyclophosphamide
  • temozolomide
  • carboplatin
  • altretamine
  • mechlorethamine

Alkylating agents are mainly used to treat slow-growing cancers since they are less effective against rapidly dividing cells. For instance, the physician may use these cancer medications to treat breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, leukemia, Hodgkin disease, sarcoma, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

Alkylating agents may cause some side effects, including hair loss, low blood pressure, seizures, reduced sperm production, fewer periods, or blood disorders.

Plant alkaloids

Plant alkaloids are plan-based medications with an anti-tumor effect. There are different names for these cancer medications based on the enzyme they target. Taxanes and vinca alkaloids are examples of plant alkaloids. Alkaloids that inhibit topoisomerase also have different names depending on which enzyme they affect. For example, the Topoisomerase I inhibitor interferes with DNA replication in cancer cells. There are also inhibitors of topoisomerase II, one example of which is etoposide.

Plant alkaloids can be used to treat ovarian cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer.

However, these cancer medications may cause side effects, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • allergic reactions


These cancer medications aim to convince cancer cells to consume them and then prevent their proliferation into new cells.

Examples of antimetabolites include:

  • fludarabine
  • 5-fluorouracil
  • cladribine
  • methotrexate
  • floxuridine
  • 6-mercaptopurine
  • hydroxyurea
  • azacitidine
  • clofarabine
  • gemcitabine
  • capecitabine

Antimetabolites are effective in treating leukemia, anal cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, and stomach cancer.
Side effects of antimetabolites include hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, vomiting, kidney damage, low white blood cell count, pancreatitis, liver failure, and ulcers.


Corticosteroids are synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones helpful in treating cancer and reducing inflammation. Specific corticosteroids are used to treat cancers. Such corticosteroids include dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and prednisone. Nausea, vomiting, and appetite problems resulting from chemotherapy can be reduced due to the anti-inflammatory properties of these cancer medications. 

Possible side effects of corticosteroids include mood changes, headaches, heartburn, weight gain, elevated risk of infection, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, and blood sugar fluctuations.


It is a subgroup of alkylating agents that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier. This barrier aims to protect the brain from various substances in the body. However, treatment of some cancers, including brain cancer, requires getting through the blood-brain barrier. The nitrosoureas’ mode of action is to attach themselves to DNA strands in cancer cells and prevent them from dividing. Most common nitrosoureas include lomustine, carmustine, and streptozocin.

Anti-tumor antibiotics

Anti-tumor antibiotics inhibit the growth of cancer cells by interfering with their enzymes. Anthracyclines are the type of these cancer medications. By binding to the DNA of cancerous cells, anthracyclines prevent them from reproducing. Examples of anthracyclines include doxorubicin, idarubicin, daunorubicin, epirubicin, valrubicin, and doxorubicin liposomal. Other non-anthracycline anti-tumor antibiotics include bleomycin, dactinomycin, and mitoxantrone.  

Anti-tumor antibiotics are helpful in treating lung cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and ovarian cancer.

The risk of heart damage is one of the major side effects of anti-tumor antibiotics. This side effect occurs rare, but it can appear due to high doses of the drug. 

Anti-cancer peptides

There are four main types of anti-cancer peptides:

  • Alpha-helical ACPs
  • Beta-pleated sheet ACPs
  • Random coli ACPs
  • Cyclic ACPs

Alpha-helical ACPs

Alpha-helical ACPs typically have a short peptide chain and a simple structure. It is the most typical structure of anti-cancer peptides. Alpha-helical ACPs exist widely in the amphibians’ epidermis. A growing number of alpha-helical ACPs have been discovered in recent years, but not all have potent anti-cancer effects. Currently, alpha-helical ACPs are the most extensively studied form of anti-cancer peptides. Although most ACPs have adequate inhibition effects on tumour cells, they are also associated with side effects and cytotoxicity. 

Beta-pleated sheet ACPs

The ACPs with beta-pleated sheets typically have at least two disulfide bonds that are reasonably stable. This type of peptides is more complex in comparison with alpha-helical ACPs and are found primarily in animals and plants. For example, bovine lactoferrin (LfcinB), an important component of the bovine immune system, is a typical beta-pleated sheet ACP. Although the anti-tumor activity of beta-pleated sheet anti-cancer peptides is generally lower than in alpha-helical ACPs, these anti-cancer medications are less toxic to normal tissue cells. Therefore, beta-pleated sheet ACPs have good prospects for development in the future.

Random coil ACPs

ACPs consisting of random coils are typically rich in proline and glycine, lacking typical secondary structures. Alloferon is a type of random coil ACP rich in glycine capable of stimulating the activation of natural killer cells and interferon synthesis in human and animal models. Several studies have proven its therapeutic value. Random coil ACPs killed less normal cells than other types of ACPs, but they inhibited tumor cells worse than the other two types of ACPs. 

Cyclic ACPs

These are closed peptides composed of cyclization backbones or disulfide bonds that form cystine knots; they are more stable than linear structures. Presently, cyclic anti-cancer peptides account for the majority of ACPs in clinical studies. Cyclic ACPs have a strong inhibitory impact on cancer cells. Cyclic ACPs are types of ACPs with higher anti-cancer activity and lower toxicity than other types.

You can also try the Khavinson peptide supplement called Bonomarlort. It is a cytomax designed to promote hematopoiesis and the production of stem cells. Bonomarlot reduces the risk of tumor development and prevents secondary immunodeficiencies. Taking this Khavinson peptide supplement is beneficial during the recovery phase after disease. 

Click here to read more about Bonomarlot.

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