Major Cancer Drug Side Effects (Pic-Mnemonic) - USMLE Forums
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USMLE Step 1 Mnemonics Mnemonics, acronyms, reminders, and memorizing tips for the USMLE Step 1.


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Old 10-30-2013
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Wink Major Cancer Drug Side Effects (Pic-Mnemonic)

Hey guys, I'm a new user but have browsed this forum for a while and it's helped me alot, so I figured I would try and return the favor. Pretty much I'm more of a logic guy than a memorization so a subject like Pharm is hell for me. Here is a way that I find useful in remembering the major S/Es of cancer medication.


Sorry for the cheap pic, but its supposed to represent, from top to bottom, head, torso, pelvis. Anyways, lets get started, and note that this isnt for every single cancer drug.

First thing to remember is that most cancer medication causes bone marrow suppression of some sort since it targets rapidly dividing cells (tumors, bone marrow, hair, GI, etc...). So if you're not sure, assume that bone marrow suppression is there. Now onto the pic:

Cisplatin - The red C's stand for Cisplatin. Notice how they sort of look like Ears and Kidneys, that's because Cisplatin is Ototoxic and Nephrotoxic.

Bleomycin and Busulfan - The 2 B's sort of look like lungs (yes I know the right lung has 3 lobes but work with me here ). This should remind you that Bleomycin and Busulfan are famous for causing Pulmonary Fibrosis (while im on the topic, remember that the CVS drug Amiodarone, which is a Class III drug - K+ channel blocker, also causes Pulmonary Fibrosis...but that's off topic a bit lol)

Adriamycin (aka Doxorubicin)
- In the purplish/pink color we have a picture of a heart, that sort of looks like an upside down A. Well that A is for Adriamycin, the drug that famously causes Cardiotoxicity (Dilated Cardiomyopathy).

Cyclophosphamide - In the Pelvic area we only have one drug. No that is not popcorn, is actually a bunch of C's connected on end in a spherical manner. The C's and the fact that they are in a cycle is supposed to remind you of Cyclo-phosphamide, a drug which is associated with Hemorrhagic Cystitis.

Some other helpful tips regarding drug mechanism:

1. If the drug name hasthe name of a Purine or Pyrimidine in it, or even the word purine itself, its a Purine/Pyrimidine analog (i.e. 5-fluoroURACIL).

2. For mode of action remember that vinBLASTin BLASTS microtubles (inhibit polymerization) and also that BLASTS are normally found in the Bone Marrow --> bone marrow toxicity. Vincristine being in the same class has the same mode of action, just try to remember that it's SE is peripheral neuropathy

3.For drugs like PacliTAXol I just think of TAXIDERMY which is pretty much the art of taking dead animals and preserving them in a single state. Well Paclitaxol (and the other taxols) hyperstabalize microtubles, sort of like keeping them stuck in the same state.

Those are just a few ways I remember some key points from the Cancer Chemotherapy chapter...hope it helps some of you.
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