Chemotherapy is often used for the treatment of neurofibromatosis tumors, including those that develop on or just below the surface of the skin (neurofibromas) and those that develop deeper in the nerve pathways (plexiform neurofibromas). And, although most patients with neurofibromatosis never develop cancer, chemo can also be used to treat malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors and other complications that might arise.
Chemotherapy medications work by destroying cells that divide at an abnormally rapid rate; this, in turn, can help shrink neurofibromas and alleviate a patient’s symptoms. Chemotherapy drugs that may be prescribed for neurofibromatosis include:
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles. Patients with neurofibromatosis often undergo four to eight cycles of chemotherapy, with brief recovery periods in between. These “off periods” may be shorter for pediatric patients, as children and adolescents are often better able to tolerate chemotherapy than adults.
Chemo is often well-suited for treating neurofibromatosis because it is systemic (treats the entire body rather than just one part). Because neurofibromatosis tumors can develop in multiple locations at once, chemotherapy can be a more effective option than targeted treatments such as radiation therapy.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer a comprehensive range of treatments for neurofibromatosis, including oral and intravenous chemo. Additionally, we are routinely developing and testing new chemotherapy medications through clinical trials. Our research team is also investigating ways to reduce common side effects of chemotherapy, helping to improve quality of life outcomes for our patients.