The actions of gemcitabine involve inhibiting DNA synthesis and promoting apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. Specifically, gemcitabine is incorporated into the DNA of cancer cells during the S-phase of the cell cycle, where it inhibits the activity of DNA polymerase, an enzyme that is essential for DNA replication. This leads to the accumulation of damaged DNA in cancer cells, which triggers apoptosis and ultimately cell death.
The spectrum of gemcitabine includes its use as a single agent or in combination with other chemotherapy drugs to treat a variety of cancers. It is most used to treat pancreatic cancer, where it has been shown to improve survival and quality of life in patients. gemcitabine is also used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.