Targeted Cancer Therapy – An Introduction

Targeted Cancer Therapy pic

Targeted Cancer Therapy
Image: salemhosp.com

A privately practicing hematologist and oncologist in Salem, Oregon, Natasha Tiffany, MD, also serves as oncology medical director at Salem Hospital and affiliate assistant professor at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine. Natasha Tiffany, MD, draws on an in-depth knowledge of targeted therapies and other advancements in cancer care.

Targeted therapies for cancer are individualized cancer treatment options that work by identifying the molecular processes that speed tumor growth. Unlike traditional chemotherapies, which kill both cancerous and noncancerous cells, targeted therapies focus particularly on a particular process. Some are laboratory-produced antibodies that act on a particular cell target, while others are synthetic small-molecule chemicals.

Many targeted therapies block the chemical signals that tell cancer cells to grow. Others induce apoptosis, or cell death, by interrupting the breakdown of proteins that facilitate this process. Still others prevent the development of new blood vessels which, if left to grow uninterrupted, provide tumors with the nutrients that allow them to grow uncontrollably.

Within these general categories of targeted therapies exist a number of specific drugs. EGFR inhibitors, for example, block the growth of lung and colorectal cancers as well as some other tumors, while BRAF inhibitors target certain melanomas. Only an oncologist with experience in targeted cancer treatment can determine if such a therapy would be appropriate and, if so, which would provide the patient with the best chance of success.

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