Targeted therapies for cancer
Targeted therapy uses drugs to stop cancer from growing and spreading. It does this with less harm to normal cells than other treatments.
Standard chemotherapy works by killings cancer cells and some normal cells, targeted treatment zeroes in on specific targets (molecules) in or on cancer cells. These targets play a role in how cancer cells grow and survive. Using these targets, the drug disables the cancer cells so they cannot spread.
Molecularly targeted anticancer agents; MTAs; Chemotherapy-targeted; Vascular endothelial growth factor-targeted; VEGF-targeted; VEGFR-targeted; Tyrosine kinase inhibitor-targeted; TKI-targeted; Personalized medicine - cancer
How Does Targeted Therapy Work?
Targeted therapy drugs work in a few different ways. They may:
People with the same type of cancer may have different targets in their cancer cells. So, if your cancer does not have a specific target, the drug will not work to stop it. Not all therapies work for all people with cancer. At the same time, different cancers may have the same target.
To see if a targeted therapy might work for you, your health care provider may:
Some targeted therapies are given as pills. Others are injected into a vein (intravenous, or IV).
Who May Get Targeted Therapy?
There are targeted therapies that can treat certain types of these cancers:
Other cancers that may be treated with targeted therapies include brain, bone, kidney, lymphoma, stomach, and many others.
Your provider will decide whether targeted therapies may be an option for your type of cancer. In most cases, you will receive targeted therapy along with surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or radiation therapy. You may receive these drugs as part of your regular treatment, or as part of a clinical trial.
Doctors thought that targeted therapies might have fewer side effects that other cancer treatment. But that turned out to be untrue. Possible side effects from targeted therapies include:
As with any treatment, you may or may not have side effects. They may be mild or severe. Fortunately, they usually go away after treatment ends. It is a good idea to talk with your provider about what to expect. Your provider may be able to help prevent or lessen some side effects.
Targeted therapies are promising new treatments, but they have limitations.
Do KT, Kummar S. Therapeutic targeting of cancer cells: era of molecularly targeted agents. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 26.
National Cancer Institute website. Targeted cancer therapies. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/targeted-therapies/targeted-therapies-fact-sheet. Updated March 17. 2020. Accessed March 20, 2020.
Review Date: 9/24/2019
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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