The Oncology Nursing Podcast: UC expert discusses antimetabolite drugs

The University of Cincinnati's Rowena Schwartz joined The Oncology Nursing Podcast to discuss what oncology nurses need to know about a class of chemotherapy drugs called antimetabolites.

Schwartz, PharmD, said antimetabolites are some of the oldest anti-cancer drugs that are "developed to be similar to naturally occurring compounds that are important in cell production." They work in different ways to accomplish the goal of killing cancer cells, and also have uses as antibacterial drugs, she said.

Each drug has different potential side effects, and even the same drug can have different side effects when given at different doses and regimens, Schwartz said, highlighting the need for every member of an oncology care team to be familiar with each specific drug, dose and regimen.

"If I don’t use a drug often, I will always look it up again before I do any kind of education for a patient," said Schwartz, professor of pharmacy practice at UC's James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy. "If I don’t use [a drug] routinely in my practice, I always find myself reviewing it just to make sure that a nuanced side effect that may be very important for a patient, I will go over."

Patient education is a job for the whole team, Schwartz said, and there needs to be collaboration between doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

"I think that in this day and age it is really important that there’s collaboration in developing whatever resources that we have," she said. "I guess that goes even beyond order sets to the education we deliver to patients to make sure it’s a consistent message. I think that is essential that the team knows what everybody is going to say so that it is consistent, because patients get so confused."

Even though antimetabolites are an older type of drug, Schwartz said she believes they will remain an important part of cancer treatment.

“I think that there are certain agents that are so foundational in some diseases that they will remain. Whether they remain first-line, maybe not; maybe they’ll go to second line as we see things evolve with new agents," she said. "Some of these drugs have been very effective in the diseases in which they are used to treat patients. There’s a long term place in therapy for these, and I think that we'll still be using these.”

Listen to The Oncology Nursing Podcast.

Featured photo at top of hospital room. Photo/Dmitri Karastelev/Unsplash.

Related Stories