Targeted Therapy

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted cancer therapy are treatments that block specific proteins and genes which may help cancers grow. Targeted treatments may help for some cancers better than others, including breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer.

By blocking specific proteins and genes which help cancer cells grow, targeted therapy may stop and treat certain kinds of cancer. The main types of targeted therapies are:

  • Small molecule medicines are small enough to slip inside the cancer cells and destroy them from the inside.
  • Monoclonal antibodies, on the other hand, are too big to get inside cancer cells and attack the outside of the cancer cells instead. This type of targeted therapy may help chemotherapy or radiotherapy work more effectively.

How does targeted therapy work?

Targeted cancer therapy can work in various different ways by interfering with certain proteins and genes.

  • Targeted therapies may interfere with the message your body sends to cells to divide, which may slow the cancer’s growth. Some targeted therapies also prevent cancer cells from living longer than normal.
  • By stopping signals that call for new blood cells, targeted therapies can stop the tumour from growing any further. If a tumour already has a blood supply, these cancer therapies can cause blood vessels within a tumour to die and ultimately shrink the tumour.
  • Some monoclonal antibodies carry toxins which, when attacking the cancer cells, kill the cancer cells.
  • By starving the cancer cells of the needed proteins, hormones and genes needed to grow, these therapies can reduce the growth and spread of cancer.

What can be done about the side effects?

Although targeted cancer therapies are less harmful than other cancer treatments, diarrhoea, liver problems, skin rashes, pigmentation problems, and high blood pressure are common side effects of targeted therapy. Because many targeted therapies are more effective when combined with chemotherapy and radiation, these side effects may also be a burden. By using palliative care, Dr Ford will ensure that the discomfort caused by these side-effects is relieved in a timely and effective manner.