Chemotherapy | Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation Return to top.


Introductory image: March for Marrow participants


How does it work?

Chemotherapy for MDS patients involves the use of medicines that kill cells cancer cells called cytotoxic agents. Chemotherapy hurts healthy cells along with abnormal ones. So you may need to stay in the hospital for a few weeks after treatment. During this time, you will receive transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. You will also take medicine to fight infection.

These medicines are divided into low-dose and high-dose treatments.

Low-dose chemotherapy medicines include:

  • Ara-C (cytarabine)
  • Hydrea® (hydroxyurea)

High-dose chemotherapy medicines include:

  • Ara-C (cytarabine), daunorubicin, idarubicin, and mitoxantrone used together

How well does it work?

Approximately 40 to 50 out of 100 patients have no MDS symptoms after receiving high-dose chemotherapy. But, for nearly 90 out of 100 patients, the disease returns within 5 years and for most, within 2 years. High-dose chemotherapy rarely provides a cure.

​What are common side effects?

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss


The data provided on chemotherapy is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive or to substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor or other qualified health provider about your condition and any drug or other treatment you are considering. Make sure you fully understand all side effects, risks and potential benefits associated with any drug or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of the information provided here. Although AAMDSIF strives to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it does not guarantee the accuracy or currency of this information.

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