Target Therapy

What are targeted cancer therapies?

Targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules ("molecular targets") that are involved in the growth progression and spread of cancer. Targeted cancer therapies are sometimes called "molecularly targeted drugs," "molecularly targeted therapies," "precision medicines.

They are a cornerstone of precision medicine a form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes and proteins to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease.

Many targeted cancer therapies have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific types of cancer.

How targeted therapy different from chemotherapy?

  • Targeted therapies act on specific molecular targets that are associated with cancer, whereas most standard chemotherapies act on all rapidly dividing normal and cancerous cells.
  • Targeted therapies are deliberately chosen or designed to interact with their target, whereas many standard chemotherapies were identified because they kill cells.
  • Targeted therapies are often cytostatic (that is, they block tumor cell proliferation ), whereas standard chemotherapy agents are cytotoxic (that is, they kill tumor cells).

How are targets for targeted cancer therapies identified?

One approach to identify potential targets is to compare the amounts of individual proteins in cancer cells with those in normal cells.

Another approach to identify potential targets is to determine whether cancer cells produce mutant (altered) proteins that drive cancer progression.

What types of targeted therapies are available?

These therapies include hormone therapies, signal transduction inhibitors, gene expression modulators, apoptosis inducers, angiogenesis inhibitors, immunotherapies,and toxin delivery molecules.

Cancer vaccines and gene therapy are sometimes considered targeted therapies because they interfere with the growth of specific cancer cells.

What are the side effects of targeted cancer therapies?

  • The most common side effects are diarrhea,hepatitis and elevated liver enzymes.
  • Skin problems (acneiform rash, dry skin, nail changes, hair depigmentation).
  • Problems with blood clotting and wound healing
  • High blood pressure


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