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ICE chemotherapy is a common form of treatment for several types of white blood cell cancers called non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. The acronym is derived from the names of the three drugs used in combination during therapy: ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide. Each drug is administered in sequence through an intravenous (IV) drip line. In most cases, ICE chemotherapy treatments are delivered on a precise schedule over the course of several months by an oncologist or a trained nurse. ICE chemotherapy does not always remove cancer completely, but most patients do see some improvement in their conditions following a course of treatment.
The drugs used in ICE chemotherapy combat cancer by slowing or stopping the growth of new malignant cells and gradually destroying existing ones. Ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide all have slightly different mechanisms of action that help prevent cancerous cells from building resistance. The drugs infiltrate cell walls and disrupt the process of DNA synthesis. When DNA strands are disrupted or broken down, a cell cannot replicate.
Before starting ICE chemotherapy, a team of specialists work together to determine the most appropriate dosage amounts and frequency of administrations based on a patient's specific condition. An ICE chemotherapy regimen is designed to limit the chances of adverse side effects while providing the maximum positive response possible. In most cases, IV drugs are given in sequence over the course of about one week in a hospital while doctors monitor their effects. Most patients are scheduled to receive three week-long cycles spread out over two to four months.
Chemotherapy drugs are often very effective at destroying cancer cells, though they can also cause damage to healthy cells. When normal white blood cells are destroyed during chemotherapy, a person's immune system becomes very weak. He or she is highly susceptible to serious illness and infection. Other side effects may include hair loss, anemia, fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty urinating, and vomiting. Doctors try to combat side effects with other medications and careful monitoring during treatment.
Following a course of ICE chemotherapy, blood tests and bone marrow biopsies are performed to gauge the success of treatment. Some people go into remission after a single course, and their follow-up care consists of frequent checkups to make sure the cancer does not return. If chemotherapy is unsuccessful, another round of treatment with additional or different drugs may be needed. Blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants can also be considered if symptoms fail to improve with chemotherapy alone.