What Is Targeted Therapy?
Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that uses precision medicine, also called personalized medicine.
In cancer cells, a set of specific genes and proteins controls how cancer grows, divides, and spreads. Targeted therapy uses medications that interrupt these genes and proteins so that cancer stops growing.
How Does Targeted Therapy Work?
Targeted therapy works by targeting specific proteins or other cells. The therapy may
- Interfere with the blood supply that helps tumors grow.
- Keep hormones from acting on tumors and causing them to grow.
- Mark cancer cells so your immune system can find and destroy them more easily.
- Prevent your body from making hormones that would cause cancer cells to grow.
- Send cancer-destroying medicine to tumors.
What Are the Types of Targeted Therapy?
Targeted therapy may be specific to a certain cell or type of cancer. Common types of targeted therapy include the following:
- Monoclonal antibodies: These drugs target specific areas around cancer cells. They can also deliver medication such as chemotherapy directly to cancer cells.
- Small-molecule drugs: These drugs interfere with the processes that make cancer cells grow and divide. They may block the blood vessels that feed tumors or interfere with hormones that would cause cancer cells to grow.
What Types of Cancer Does Targeted Therapy Treat?
Experts are continually learning more about targeted therapy through research and clinical trials. Currently, targeted therapy can be an effective treatment for certain types of
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Lymphoma (cancer of your infection-fighting lymphatic system)
- Melanoma (skin cancer)
What to Expect with Targeted Therapy
Your oncologist (cancer specialist) may need to find out what proteins a tumor contains before starting targeted therapy. You may have a biopsy to test for specific proteins. During a biopsy, your provider removes a small tissue sample and sends it to a lab for testing.
You may take targeted therapy as a pill or intravenously (through the vein with an IV). You will have regular follow-up visits with your oncologist to make sure treatment is working.
Comprehensive Cancer Treatment
Targeted therapy may be a stand-alone cancer treatment. Or you may have targeted therapy along with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.