Targeted cancer therapy is a type of cancer treatment that specifically targets cancer cells while minimizing damage to normal, healthy cells. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which affects both cancerous and normal rapidly dividing cells, targeted therapy aims to interfere with specific molecules involved in the growth, progression, and spread of cancer cells. Here are key points about targeted cancer therapy:

  1. Molecular Targets:

    • Targeted therapy focuses on specific molecules that play crucial roles in cancer development, such as proteins, receptors, or other cellular structures.
  2. Types of Targeted Therapies:

    • Monoclonal Antibodies: Laboratory-produced molecules that mimic the immune system’s ability to target and destroy cancer cells.
    • Small Molecule Inhibitors: Drugs that interfere with specific proteins involved in cancer cell growth and survival.
    • Immunotherapies: These therapies stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
  3. Personalized Medicine:

    • Targeted therapies are often part of the growing field of personalized medicine, where treatment decisions are tailored to the specific characteristics of an individual’s cancer.
  4. Common Targets:

    • Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR): Targeted in cancers like lung, colorectal, and head and neck cancers.
    • HER2/neu: Targeted in breast and gastric cancers.
    • BRAF: Targeted in melanoma and certain types of colorectal cancer.
    • Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs): Target various kinases involved in cancer cell signaling.
  5. Indications:

    • Targeted therapies are used for various cancers, including breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian, melanoma, and certain blood cancers.
  6. Combination Therapies:

    • Targeted therapies may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  7. Side Effects:

    • While targeted therapies are designed to be more selective, they can still cause side effects. Common side effects may include skin reactions, diarrhea, liver problems, and hypertension.
  8. Resistance:

    • Cancer cells may develop resistance to targeted therapies over time. Strategies to overcome resistance may involve combining different targeted agents or using them in conjunction with other treatment modalities.
  9. Monitoring Response:

    • Response to targeted therapy is often monitored through imaging studies and laboratory tests. Adjustments to the treatment plan may be made based on the patient’s response.
  10. Examples of Targeted Therapies:

    • Trastuzumab (Herceptin): Targets HER2-positive breast cancer.
    • Imatinib (Gleevec): Targets specific tyrosine kinases in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).
    • Erlotinib (Tarceva): Targets EGFR mutations in non-small cell lung cancer.
  11. Challenges:

    • Developing targeted therapies requires a deep understanding of the molecular and genetic characteristics of cancer cells.
    • Resistance mechanisms can limit the long-term effectiveness of targeted therapies.