Cancer Treatments: Targeted Therapy
Commonly ask questions about targeted therapy:
- What is targeted therapy?
- What are the different types of targeted therapy?
- What type of cancer is targeted therapy used for?
- When is targeted therapy used?
- What are side effects of targeted therapy?
What Is Targeted Therapy?
Targeted cancer therapy serves as a term used to categorize drugs and substances used to block the growth and spread of cancer. These drugs and substances are able to do this by targeting specific molecules that influence how cancer develops and interfering with the signals they send.
While targeted therapy drugs technically fall into the cancer treatment category of chemotherapy, the drastic difference in function within the human body has led the medical community to consider it as its own category of cancer treatment.
Drugs that qualify as methods of targeted therapy are able to identify discrepancies in standard cell DNA and effect only the cells with the cancerous discrepancy. These areas of discrepancy from standard cells are what cause cancer cells to experience uncontrollable growth and longevity. By altering how those DNA areas are able to function or disrupting other factors that allow the growth to continue, targeted therapy can halt the cancer growth.
When pursuing targeted therapy, different drugs or substances can be used depending on the nature of the cancer. While specific to the form and development of cancer, the type of therapy chosen by a medical professional to pursue also depends on what the goal of treatment is and how the body may react to certain efforts.
All of these factors are compounded to decide on what specific form of targeted therapy will be pursued, once decided the therapy could work in any of the following ways:
- Block Chemical Signals Triggering Growth
- Carry Fatal Toxin To The Cancer Cell(s)
- Prevent The Construction Of New Bleed Vessels
- Alter Proteins Within Cancer Cell(s)
- Trigger Immune System Reaction Against Cancer Cell(s)
What Are The Different Types Of Targeted Therapy?
While dozens of drugs used for targeted therapy have been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they all fall into one of two subgroups.
These subgroups of targeted therapy are therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and small molecules, each attacking cancer cells by targeting specific areas but doing so in different ways.
What Are Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies?
One of the main two groups of target therapy drugs, therapeutic monoclonal antibodies target specific antigens located on the surface of cells. These drugs insert themselves into the cancer cell and work to block the flow of chemicals and necessities to the cell.
In doing so, the drugs are able to restrict a cancerous cell’s ability to continue growing and in some cases may restrict it to such a degree that the cell begins deteriorating.
Some of these drugs have yielded such effective results, that they are able to insert toxic substances directly into the cancerous cells once they have attached. This quality has led them to be used with other treatment methods like chemotherapy and targeted to allow those drugs to reach cancerous cells with a higher degree of effectiveness.
What Are Small Molecules?
Another one of the two main forms of targeted therapy, small molecules are drugs that penetrate the cell membrane of cancerous cells and proceed to interact with the cell’s inter-workings. In doing so, the drugs are able block the process in which cancer cells multiply and spread.
These drugs are most often taken through orally administered pills. Once introduced to the body, the drugs work to prevent the creation of blood vessels – angiogenesis – in tissue surround the cancerous tumor.
If the drug is successful in halting the creation of new blood vessels, the tumor will be unable to continue it’s rapid growth as it will lack the nutrients needed to do so. These drugs effectively starve cancer cells into being unable to continue their destructive trajectory.
What Type Of Cancer Is Targeted Therapy Used For?
Targeted therapy is one of the newest forms of cancer treatment to be introduced to consumers, with drugs and methods within the therapy still being developed and approved. With the first targeted therapy drug being approved within the last 20 years, there is still much to discover about the efficacy and safety of these new drugs.
However, with dozens of drugs approved and in use presently, the treatment can be used for a wide variety of cancer types. Some of the most common forms of cancer that may use targeted therapy as a treatment method includes:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma
- Bladder Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Melanoma Skin Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Stomach Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
However, it is important to note that because of the status of targeted therapy, medical professionals may choose not to pursue it in certain situations until more information regarding safety and efficacy is released.
When Is Targeted Therapy Used?
In order to pursue targeted therapy, an individual’s cancer must offer an appropriate target for a type of drug or treatment that will be able to effectively attack the cancer cells. Prior to pursuing targeted therapy, tumor tissue will tested to ensure that the cancer has a target suitable for the available drug(s).
If it is determined that a cancer offers a suitable target, the individual afflicted must meet a set of criteria determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow the therapy to commence. Some of these criteria include an individual;s cancer not responding to other therapies, spreading throughout the body, or being inoperable.
Does Targeted Therapy Have Limitations?
Although effective in reported cases, there are documented instances in which the therapy’s effectiveness has been severely reduced.
The first of these limitations is the ability for cells to grow resistant to the drugs used in treatment. Resistance can occur by the cell continuing to mutate in a fashion that makes the targeted therapy no longer able to effect the area of growth within the cell.
Resistance can also occur with the cancerous tumor adapting to its inability to use the resources blocked by the drug and utilizing new methods, unaffected by the drug, to continue pursuing growth.
Another limitation present far targeted therapy efforts is the difficulty in developing drugs that are able to target specific targets existent in only those type of cells. However, medical researchers are attempting to neutralize this limitation as additional targeted therapy drug development is pursued.
What Side Effects Of Targeted Therapy?
Although drugs used in targeted therapy treatments may not carry the same side effects as their more toxic chemotherapy counterparts, they still may trigger serious health complications in users.
While side effects and the overall safety of targeted therapy drugs are still being discovered, the most common side effects currently being reported with the therapy includes:
|Hepatitis||Elevated Liver Enzymes|
|Skin Problems||Blood Clotting|
|High Blood Pressure||Gastrointestinal Perforation|
In some cases, the development of some side effects have indicated a higher degree of drug effectiveness and yielded better results in combating the growing cancer. However, the discovery of any side effects while undergoing targeted therapy should result in contacting a medical professional for guidance.