Chemotherapy for Anal Cancer

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MSK medical oncologist Rona Yaeger speaks to a nurse

MSK medical oncologists, like Rona Yaeger, will work with you to create a treatment plan that best fits your needs.

Your treatment for anal cancer can include chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. It is usually given with radiation. This is called chemoradiation. The cancer may be advanced or has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body. If so, chemotherapy may stop it from growing and can help with pain.

Medical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer using drugs. You will get chemotherapy from an MSK medical oncologist who is an expert in your type of cancer. We will work with you on a treatment plan that’s best for you.

Our medical oncologists will talk with you about your condition. They may not recommend chemotherapy. It may not be right for you if there are major side effects, but the benefits are not clear.

Immunotherapy for Anal Cancer

Your medical oncologist may talk with you about immunotherapy. This treatment uses your own immune system to fight cancer cells. In recent years, doctors have found that checkpoint inhibitors can work to treat anal cancer. These drugs release the immune system’s natural brakes, helping it attack cancer cells.

Nivolumab (Opdivo®) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) are checkpoint inhibitors for treating anal cancer. Researchers continue to study how immunotherapy can help people with the disease.

Personalized Medicine for Anal Cancer Treatment

MSK developed a test that can help people with advanced anal cancer that has not responded to treatment. This genetic-sequencing test is called MSK-IMPACT™ and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This test looks for certain genetic mutations (changes) in the tumor. We use this information to find a clinical trial that’s right for you.