While certain types of cancer, such as CML, always have a target (a protein or a gene), not much cancer does. The doctor may request tests to learn about the genes, proteins, and other variables specific to the patient’s tumour to find the best-targeted therapy for it. This aids in the discovery of the best effective medication.
There are FDA-approved targeted therapies for many cancers, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. There are mainly two types of targeted therapies:
Small Molecule Medicine
These are small particles which are tiny enough to slip inside cancer cells and destroy them.
These are biomolecules which cannot enter cells because of their large size. They attack cancer cells from the outside of cells.
Hormone therapies either prevent the body from producing the hormones that some breast and prostate cancers require growing, or they prevent the hormones from acting.
Signal Transduction Inhibitor
The most prevalent targeted medicines are signal transduction inhibitors. They disrupt signals that tell cells to divide excessively and rapidly.
Gene Expression Modulator
Because it is abnormal, this sort of targeted therapy attempts to change the proteins that control how the instructions of genes in cancer cells are carried out or expressed.
Cancer cells frequently discover a way to avoid the natural process of apoptosis, in which healthy cells die as they age or get damaged. Cancer cells die naturally because of apoptosis inducers.
Angiogenesis inhibitors prevent the formation of blood vessels, which cancer cells use to get nutrients and oxygen.
Immunotherapies employ the immune system to kill cancer cells. Some enhance the immune system, allowing it to do a better job of detecting cancer. Others label tumour cells to make it easier for the immune system to detect them.
Targeted therapies can have different effects on the cancer cells, such as:
- Turn off or block the signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide.
- Prevent the cells from living any longer than they should.
- Destroy cancer cells
The dose of targeted therapy is determined by a variety of criteria, including body weight and the risk of experiencing severe adverse effects.
Some targeted therapy is provided as an infusion. The patient can receive this infusion of drugs intravenously. An IV delivers the drug directly into the bloodstream through a tiny tube called a catheter. Some patients may have a central venous catheter (CVC) or port implanted, allowing treatment to be administered in the same line each time. It stays in place as long as the patient is receiving treatment, so they won’t have to be poked with a needle every time.
Oral Target Therapy
When taking a targeted therapy drug by mouth, the patient consumes the tablet, capsule, or liquid, just like any other medicine. Oral targeted therapy is typically administered at home. If the patient is taking targeted drugs orally, they should follow all instructions about handling and storing targeted drugs if taken by mouth. Sometimes, the patient might be told to wear gloves while touching pills and capsules.
A patient is a good fit for targeted therapy if the following conditions are met:
- Overall healthy physically and mentally
- Patient with cancer
- They fit the criteria set by FDA
- Cancer cannot be resected surgically
To get a better idea about the targeted therapy and expected outcomes, the patient should ask their healthcare providers the following questions:
- What are the treatment’s objectives?
- Is targeted therapy going to be my only option? What will other treatments be included in my treatment plan if not?
- How and how frequently will I undergo targeted therapy treatment?
- What are the potential long-term and short-term side effects of targeted therapy?
- What impact will this treatment have on my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and go about my normal routine?
- What are clinical trials for targeted therapy available to me?
- Who should I contact if I have questions or have a problem?
During targeted therapy for cancer, not everyone will experience side effects. Side effects of cancer treatments will vary from person to person and drug to drug.
Many people experience abnormal changes in their skin, such as dry skin, photosensitivity, rash, changes in hair growth, etc.
High Blood Pressure
Few targeted drugs, such as angiogenesis inhibitors, can raise blood pressure.
This is a rare complication of some targeted drug therapy. These problems arise because some drugs stop or interfere growth of new blood vessels, which leads to bruising and bleeding.
Some drugs can create blood clots in the lungs and legs.
Poor Wound Healing
Some of these medicines impede wound healing by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels. This can cause existing wounds (cuts) to reopen and fresh wounds not heal.
Certain drugs can damage the heart, especially if used with certain chemotherapy drugs. The doctor may test the patient’s heart function before starting treatment.
Certain targeted treatment medications work by essentially disabling the body’s immune system. If the immune system attacks the healthy components of the body, this can have catastrophic consequences. This is not frequent, but it can be fatal for certain people.
The other side effects of targeted therapy include:
Make sure other family members and loved ones do not come in contact with the medicine or any bodily fluids for a short time after taking the target drug.
Healthcare providers will explain to the patient how to manage the side effects of targeted therapy. Doctors may prescribe other medicine for skin rashes and vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, etc. However, if the patient is facing extreme side effects, they should contact their doctors immediately.
Targeted therapy has a higher success rate than chemotherapy. But it does not mean that it can completely cure cancer. It may be possible that it can reduce or stop the growth of cancer, which in turn, can make the patient eligible for surgery.
The patient should follow up with their doctor timely to assess the cancer growth. This way, they can come up with a different treatment if needed.
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