What is targeted therapy?
Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to target exact genes and proteins that are difficult in the development and survival of cancer cells. Targeted therapy can affect the tissue environment that helps cancer grow and survive, or it can target cells related to cancer growth, such as cells in blood vessels.
Doctors often use targeted therapy sideways with chemotherapy and other treatments. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted targeted therapies for many types of cancers. Research is also being done to find new targeted therapy treatments.
How does targeted therapy work?
There are numerous types of cells that make up every tissue in your body. For example, there are blood cells, brain cells, and skin cells. Each guy has his own job. Cancer begins when certain genes in healthy cells change and become abnormal over time. This change is called a genetic mutation.
Genes tell cells how to make proteins to keep the cell going. If genes mutate, these proteins also change. This can cause cells to divide too much or too fast and allow cells to live much longer than normal. When this happens, cells grow out of control and form a tumor. Learn more about the genetics of cancer.
To grow targeted therapies, researchers first identify the genetic variations that help a tumor grow and change. A potential target for this therapy would be a protein that is present in cancer cells but not in healthy cells. This may be due to a mutation. Once researchers have recognized a mutation, they develop a treatment that aims for that specific mutation.
Targeted therapies can do different things to the cancer cells that they target:
- Block or turn off the indications that tell cancer cells to grow and divide
- Prevent cells from living longer than normal
- Destroys cancer cells
To match the best-targeted therapy for your tumor, your doctor may order tests to learn the genes, proteins, and other factors that are unique to your tumor. This helps to find the most effective treatment. Like other treatments, embattled therapies can cause side effects and be expensive, so your doctor will try to compete for your tumor with the best possible treatment.
There are types of targeted therapies available
Many different targeted therapies have been approved for use in treating cancer. These therapies contain hormonal therapies, signal transduction inhibitors, gene look modulators, apoptosis inducers, angiogenesis inhibitors, immunotherapies, and toxin-releasing molecules.
Hormonal therapies: It slow or stop the development of hormone-sensitive tumors, which require certain hormones to grow. Hormone therapies work by preventing the body from producing hormones or by interfering with the action of hormones. Hormonal therapies have been approved for both breast and prostate cancer.
Signal transduction inhibitors: They block the activities of molecules that participate in signal transduction, the process by which a cell replies to signals from its situation. During this process, once a cell has received a specific signal, the signal is transmitted within the cell through a series of biochemical reactions that ultimately produce the appropriate responses.
In some cancers, malignant cells are stimulated to continually divide without external growth factors prompting them to do so. Inhibitors of signal transduction interfere with this inappropriate signaling.
Modulators of gene: Modulators of gene expression modifies the function of proteins that play a role in the control of gene expression.
Apoptosis inducers: It causes cancer cells to undergo a controlled cell death process called apoptosis. Apoptosis is a method the body uses to get rid of abnormal or unnecessary cells, but cancer cells have strategies to prevent apoptosis. Inducers of apoptosis can circumvent these strategies to cause cancer cell death.
Angiogenesis inhibitors: Angiogenesis inhibitors block the growth of new blood vessels into tumors. The blood supply is essential for tumors to grow beyond a certain size because blood provides the oxygen and nutrients that tumors need for sustained growth. Treatments that delay angiogenesis can chunk tumor growth.
Some targeted therapies that inhibit angiogenesis interfere with the action of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), a substance that stimulates the formation of new blood vessels. Other angiogenesis inhibitors target other molecules that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels.
Immunotherapies: It causes the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Some immunotherapies are monoclonal antibodies that recognize exact molecules on the surface of cancer cells. The binding of the monoclonal antibody to the target molecule results in the immune killing of cells expressing that target molecule. Other monoclonal antibodies bind to sure immune cells to help these cells better kill cancer cells.
Toxic molecules: Monoclonal antibodies that release toxic molecules can specifically cause cancer cell death. Once the antibody has bound to its target cell, the toxic molecule that is certain to the antibody, such as radioactive material or poisonous chemical, is taken up by the cell and ultimately kills that cell. The toxin will not affect cells that lack the target for the antibody, that is, the vast majority of cells in the body.
Why could you have targeted drug therapy?
Targeted drugs are not suitable for all types of cancer. But they are one of the main treatments for some types of cancers. For example, advanced melanoma and some types of leukemia. For some other cancers, anticancer drugs have been targeted in combination with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Researchers are also looking for targeted drugs in clinical trials for some types of cancer.
Whether you have targeted therapy depends on:
- The types of cancer you have
- How far your cancer has spread (stage)
- Other cancer treatments you’ve had
Side effects in targeted therapy
Targeted therapies can cause serious side effects. The most common are diarrhea, liver problems such as hepatitis, and changes in the skin, hair, and nails.
- Skin problems are the hardest to treat for most people. They occur because targeted cancer therapies target the same growth factors and blood vessels that you need for healthy skin.
- A rash that looks like acne on the scalp, face, neck, chest, and back. It can sting, burn, or hurt. Sometimes it can get infected. It usually lasts as long as you receive treatment, but goes away after treatment is finished.
- Feeling like you have a bad sunburn. This can start before you even see changes in your skin.
- Extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
- Dry Skin. Almost everyone who receives targeted therapy has it. Your skin can crack, especially on your hands and feet, making it difficult to use your hands or walk.
- Painful, swollen sores on the fingernails and toenails.
- Sores on the scalp and hair loss or baldness. Your hair may turn a strange color or not grow back after treatment.
- Your eyelids may be red, puffy, and turned inward or downward. This could damage the clear layer in front of the eye called the cornea.
Before starting treatment, switch to mild, chemical- and fragrance-free soaps and shampoos. Report any skin changes to your doctor immediately. You should treat them so you don’t get an infection. If the skin changes are severe, you may need to stop specific medications.
Targeted therapies can cause other side effects. Some are life-threatening. Many targeted therapies work best when combined with other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, so you could be dealing with those side effects, too. Your doctor can explain what to expect from your treatment plan.
Cost for targeted therapy
Targeted therapies can cost 10,000 dollars a month. One type of immunotherapy, called CAR T, can be around half a million dollars. Still, the price can vary based on the type of drug, how it’s given, where you get it, and how long you take it.
For example, you will likely pay more out of pocket for pills than for treatment you receive intravenously in a hospital or clinic. Before starting any type of cancer treatment, be sure to find out what your insurance will pay for.
What to expect
There are dozens of targeted therapy drugs designed to treat different types of cancer, and each targeted therapy plan is tailored to a patient’s specific cancer and treatment goals. Each drug has different dosage requirements and can cause different side effects.
What you can expect from targeted therapy can vary widely based on many factors, including the type of medication prescribed, your overall health, and whether your targeted therapy is part of a plan that contains other treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery. If targeted therapy is part of your treatment plan, your care team will talk with you about your selections and what to expect.
If you choose to administer your own targeted therapy medications, discuss safety protocols for handling medications with your physician. If infusion or injection is the recommended option, your care crew will tell you when and where to go and how long the treatments will take.
Before targeted therapy
Some targeted therapies, especially checkpoint inhibitors, must be given by infusion, which can take several hours. You may want to prepare for an extended visit to the hospital, outpatient center, or infusion site.
- Get comfortable: Wear loose clothing to allow access to your port or catheter. Consider bringing a blanket or pillow.
- Bring a friend: Consider bringing a friend or family member to keep you company and drive you to and from your appointment.
- Stay busy: bring a tablet or book to read or watch a show during your session.
- Bring a snack: Make sure you have some water and a light snack during your session.
After targeted therapy
Expect to follow up with your medical oncologist or other members of your care team throughout and after your embattled therapy regimen.
- Manage side effects: Contact your care team if you are concerned about developing side effects or if they become serious.
- Stay hydrated: Make sure you eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids while attractive targeted therapy medications.