Rehab Cell

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

What Are Targeted Therapies for Cancer Treatment?

What Are Targeted Therapies for Cancer Treatment?


[music] Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that
uses drugs to target a cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment
that contributes to cancer growth and survival. These genes and proteins are found in cancer
cells or in cells related to cancer growth, like blood vessel cells. Researchers are learning that specific changes
take place in certain cancers. So they are developing drugs that target those
changes to fight the cancer. We often just describe targeted therapies
as precision medicine or molecularly targeted drugs. Essentially, they’re drugs that hit particular
proteins that are important in cancer cell growth. Targeted therapies hone to particular cancer
cells because they hone to these proteins that are expressed either in the cell or on
the outside of the cell. As we’ve learned more about why cancer cells
grow, there’s been tremendous excitement about targeted therapies. So often, we’ll find that there are particular
genetic aberrations in a cancer cell that cause it to proliferate. We’ve developed a number of drugs that hit
these mutations and essentially shot these proteins down that cause cancer cells to grow,
and we see some dramatic responses. Doctors can use targeted therapy along with
chemotherapy and other treatments, but targeted therapies work in a completely different way
than traditional chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was designed to kill cells that
were rapidly dividing and cause lowering of blood counts or changes in hair; targeted
therapies are often given chronically. So oral drugs are taken almost every day. There are infusional drugs that are monoclonal
antibodies that are given periodically. But, these drugs are given for often a longer
duration than we think of chemotherapy by vein. Just as the treatment differs from traditional
chemotherapy, the side effects of targeted therapy are different as well. If you are prescribed targeted therapy for
cancer treatment, be sure to talk with your oncologist about what side effects—also
called toxicities—you can expect and when. Generally, targeted therapies are well tolerated
by patients. They are associated with long benefits in
good chronic use. But, it needs to be personalized for each
patient. It’s about the appropriate dose, about managing
these mild, but chronic toxicities and about understanding when resistance may develop. They can be cumulative. Patients can develop sort of low-grade toxicity
over months. And that’s very different than the chemotherapy
associated fatigue that many patients have either experiences or have seen friends and
family experience, meaning significant fatigue because of low blood counts for a few days
before they rebound. Our hope with targeted therapies is that these
are chronic medications and patients can be on them for months or even years. And so, side effects can be subtle, but build
up. And so, even low-grade toxicities need to
be reported to your healthcare team to assess whether or not the dosing is appropriate or
whether or not you need treatment breaks or other supportive medications. Targeted therapy is very personalized according
to the specifics of the type of disease. And, targeted therapy is not yet an option
for every type of cancer. It is important that you have a conversation
with your oncologist about whether targeted therapy is an available treatment option for
you. Often, we’ll have information just based
on the initial diagnosis and protein staining of the cancer whether or not a targeted therapy
makes sense. But often it takes another layer of testing,
and that’s the genetic testing to see whether or not a particular cancer harbors those mutations
that would make targeted therapy very appropriate. If you are told that targeted therapy is appropriate,
then the questions that may come to mind are what do the side effects look like? How often will I be monitored for these side
effects, and what other options do I have? Targeted therapies have shown success in a
number of different types of cancers, and researchers are continuing to develop more
targeted drugs as they learn more about specific changes in different types of cancer cells. One good example is lung cancers. So patients with non-squamous, non-small cell
lung cancer, the most predominate kind of lung cancer, who have advanced disease undergo
genetic profiling to see if they have particular mutations. Other tumor types in which we’ve seen success
with targeted therapies include things like breast cancer. We’ve seen success with gastrointestinal
stromal tumors, with some leukemia. So, certainly a broad range of cancers have
molecularly targeted therapies. With so much cancer information available
online, be sure the source you are using is credible and trustworthy.

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