What is targeted therapy for cancer?

Targeted therapy for cancer is a type of chemotherapy that is directed at specific molecules in cancer cells involved in the cancer's growth and spread. Unlike other chemotherapy agents that stop the growth of all rapidly dividing cells, both healthy and cancerous, targeted therapies zero in on specific cells involved in certain types of cancer. In this way, targeted therapy can treat cancer while causing fewer side effects and sparing damage to healthy cells.

Targeted therapies that have been approved for treating cancer include the following, according to the National Cancer Institute:
  • Hormone therapies that stop the body from producing specific hormones, or that block the action of certain hormones, have been approved to treat some hormone-sensitive breast and prostate cancers.
  • Signal transduction inhibitors are drugs that can block the activity of certain molecules that signal some types of cancer cells to divide.
  • Gene expression modulators modify the function of proteins that play a role in controlling gene expression in certain types of cancer.
  • Apoptosis inducers are drugs that target and kill specific cancer cells.
  • Angiogenesis inhibitors block the growth of new blood vessels to cancer cells, cutting off the oxygen and nutrients that cancer cells need to grow.
  • Immunotherapies are drugs that trigger the immune system to fight cancer cells more successfully.
  • Monoclonal antibodies are specific drugs that can bind to and kill certain cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
Targeted therapies can cause some side effects (skin rashes, high blood pressure, wound healing problems), and are not available for use in all types of cancer. However research into targeted therapies for cancer is ongoing

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.