We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Maintenance Chemotherapy?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Jan 26, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

When a patient with cancer responds well to chemotherapy, he or she may be able to stop taking the anticancer drugs. Sometimes, however, the doctor recommends continuing with a low level of more chemotherapy drugs for some time, after the cancer goes into remission. This type of treatment, which aims to prevent the cancer returning, is called maintenance chemotherapy. As chemotherapy responses differ, maintenance chemotherapy does not appear to be beneficial for all cancer patients and may instead affect quality of life and expose patients to unnecessary risks. Maintenance chemotherapy does not appear to be effective for many cancers, but specific forms of leukemia respond best.

Chemotherapy describes a regime of drugs that can potentially treat and even reverse cancer growth. Various forms of chemotherapy drugs exist, and they all carry side effects. These range from the unpleasant, such as vomiting and hair loss, to dangerous, like an increased risk of infection. Due to the side effects, many cancer patients are happy to stop taking chemotherapy when their cancer goes into remission.

Early versions of chemotherapy drugs were more toxic and had more severe side effects than some of the newest versions. The traditional approach to chemotherapy was that once the patient's cancer went into remission, he or she could stop taking the drugs, and go back to a normal quality of life. As the newer drugs pose less of a risk to health and quality of life than the older versions, the potential risk to the patient may be less, and the patient may therefore be more amenable to maintenance chemotherapy.

Despite the newer drugs being more tolerated than the older drugs, the concept of maintenance therapy is not suitable for many cancers. This is because research into the effectiveness of taking a long course of drugs after the initial, successful chemotherapy, tells doctors that, in most cases, the maintenance therapy does not prevent cancers returning. Most cancers appear to fall into this group, where patients gain no benefit from maintenance chemotherapy.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute promyelocytic leukemia are the exceptions to the rule. People with one of these cancers may reduce their chance of the cancer returning if they take maintenance drugs. Research results prove that the therapy helps people live longer and have longer periods of remission than people who do not take the maintenance.

Evidence in favor of maintenance therapy for other cancers, as of 2011, does not indicate that the therapy is helpful for patients in general. The problem with cancer treatment, however, is that individual people have different biological responses to cancers, and resulting in varying responses to treatments. Research is ongoing, therefore, into which people need maintenance drugs, and which people will not respond to the treatment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.