What is Targeted Therapy?

Targeted therapy is the use of medicines to treat cancer by targeting specific parts of the cancer cells. These medicines can often be taken as a pill.

Targeted therapies are designed to recognize a specific molecular change in a cancer cell that drives the growth and spread of a tumor. By zeroing in on its molecular target, these new medications destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells while avoiding normal, healthy cells. And because healthy tissues are spared, targeted therapies tend to bring about fewer and less severe side effects than conventional treatments.

Types of Targeted Therapy

Some targeted therapies home in on tumors by seeking out molecules found only in cancer cells. Other targeted agents seek out molecules that are more abundant in cancer cells than in healthy cells. And still other treatments are focused on processes that are more important to the growth of cancer cells than normal cells.

There are two main classes of molecularly targeted agents under development: small molecule compounds and monoclonal antibodies.

  1. Small molecule compounds: Small molecule compounds are medications that either destroy cancer cells or stop their growth.
  2. Monoclonal antibodies: Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a lab. They work in a similar way to the body's natural antibodies. They locate and bind to antigens found on cancer cells and eliminate them from the body. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone to stimulate an immune response, or they can be used to deliver drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to a tumor.

FDA-approved monoclonal antibody therapies currently include:

  • Avastin (bevacizumab)
  • Erbitux (cetuximab)
  • Herceptin (trastuzumab)
  • Rituxan (rituximab)
  • Zevalin (ibritumomab tiuxetan)
  • Azerra (ofatumumab)
  • Yervoy (ipilimumab)

For more information on targeted therapy for cancer treatment or to schedule an appointment, contact Christian Hospital at 314.747.9355 or toll-free at 877.747.9355 or email us.