Chemotherapy for Anal Cancer

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 may include chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to attack cancer cells. It is usually given in combination with radiation. This is called chemoradiation. If the cancer is advanced or has spread (metastasized) to other parts of your body, chemotherapy may stop the cancer from growing and help relieve your pain.

Medical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer using drugs. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, you will receive chemotherapy from a highly experienced medical oncologist who specializes in your type of cancer. We will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs and leads to the best possible outcome. Depending on your personal situation, MSK medical oncologists may advise against chemotherapy if the benefits are not clear and there will be significant side effects.

Immunotherapy for Anal Cancer

Your medical oncologist may speak with you about immunotherapy as a treatment option. Immunotherapy uses your own immune system to fight cancer cells. In recent years, doctors have found that checkpoint inhibitors can be effective in treating anal cancer. These drugs release the immune system’s natural brakes, helping it attack cancer cells. Nivolumab (Opdivo®) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) are two checkpoint inhibitors approved to treat anal cancer. Researchers are continuing to study how immunotherapy can benefit people with the disease.

Personalized Medicine for Anal Cancer Treatment

At MSK, we know that one size does not fit all. People with advanced anal cancer that has not responded to treatment can have their tumor tissue analyzed by MSK-IMPACT™. The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized this genetic-sequencing test, which was developed at MSK. MSK-IMPACT looks for specific genetic mutations in tumors. By knowing which mutations are present, we can determine if there’s a clinical trial that’s right for you.