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How Does Targeted Therapy Treat Cancer?

Cancer patients are never the same. So, when coming up with a treatment plan, oncologists keep in mind everything that makes patients different. These include medical history, diagnosis, and treatment preferences.

Targeted therapy allows doctors to further personalize the treatment for cancer by using specific drugs to deal with specific tumor characteristics of a patient.

How Does Targeted Therapy Personalize Treatment?

Cancer occurs when the genes in a normal cell undergo change. This change causes the cell to start multiplying and dividing out of control.

The change in the genes of a cell is referred to as mutation. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of cancers originate from genetic mutations, which pass from a parent to the child.

However, most cancers result from other factors including age, smoking, or sun damage. Regardless of the nature of the mutation, targeted therapy functions the same way.

The Difference between Targeted Therapy and Chemotherapy

There’s a difference between targeted therapy and chemotherapy. On one hand, chemotherapy kills all types of cells that grow fast regardless of whether they are cancerous. On the other hand, targeted therapy finds and slows the growth of those cells that have a specific mutation.

Targeted therapy uses a process known as next-generation sequencing to identify the mutation. The process involves the removal and testing of a small sample from the tumor.

Side Effects of Targeted Therapy

Since the therapy attacks cancer cells, some patients encounter fewer side effects compared to chemotherapy.

Generally, the side effects depend on the targeted therapy type you receive. Potential side effects may include:

  • Skin changes (rash, itchiness, and change in pigmentation)
  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Bleeding problems

Not for Everyone, Though

Targeted therapy isn’t everyone’s option. Not all tumors carry a mutation that can cause cancer or requires treatment. Just like the case of chemotherapy, targeted therapy isn’t guaranteed to suit all patients.


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