Understanding Targeted Therapy: Personalized Cancer Treatment for Better Outcomes


Understanding Targeted Therapy: Personalized Cancer Treatment for Better Outcomes

Cancer treatment has evolved significantly over the past few decades, moving from traditional methods
like chemotherapy and radiation to more precise and personalized approaches. One of the most
promising advancements in cancer treatment is targeted therapy. Targeted therapy involves using drugs
or other substances to precisely identify and attack cancer cells while sparing normal cells. This
approach not only improves the effectiveness of treatment but also reduces side effects, leading to
better outcomes for patients. In this blog post, we will explore what targeted therapy is, how it works,
and its benefits in personalized cancer treatment.

What is Targeted Therapy?

Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that targets specific molecules involved in the growth,
progression, and spread of cancer cells. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which attacks rapidly dividing
cells indiscriminately, targeted therapy focuses on molecular and cellular changes specific to cancer
cells. This precision makes targeted therapy a powerful tool in the fight against cancer.

How Does Targeted Therapy Work?

Targeted therapy works by interfering with specific proteins, genes, or other molecules that are
essential for cancer cell survival and proliferation. There are several mechanisms through which
targeted therapy can work, including:

1. Inhibiting Growth Signals: Some targeted therapies block signals that tell cancer cells to grow
and divide. For example, drugs that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) can
prevent cancer cells from receiving growth signals.

2. Inducing Cell Death: Certain therapies can induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer
cells. Drugs that target proteins involved in cell survival pathways can trigger cancer cell death.

3. Preventing Angiogenesis: Cancer cells need a blood supply to grow. Angiogenesis inhibitors are
targeted therapies that prevent the formation of new blood vessels, starving the tumor of
nutrients and oxygen.

4. Blocking Immune Evasion: Some targeted therapies enhance the body’s immune response
against cancer cells by blocking proteins that help cancer cells evade immune detection.

Types of Targeted Therapy:

There are several types of targeted therapies used in cancer treatment, including:

1. Monoclonal Antibodies: These are laboratory-made molecules that can bind to specific targets
on cancer cells. For example, trastuzumab (Herceptin) targets the HER2 protein in certain breast

2. Small Molecule Inhibitors: These are drugs that can enter cancer cells and interfere with
specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth. For example, imatinib (Gleevec) targets the
BCR-ABL protein in chronic myeloid leukemia.

3. Angiogenesis Inhibitors: These drugs prevent the growth of new blood vessels that supply the
tumor. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is an example that targets vascular endothelial growth factor
4. Signal Transduction Inhibitors: These drugs block signals that promote cancer cell growth and
survival. For instance, erlotinib (Tarceva) targets EGFR in non-small cell lung cancer.

Benefits of Targeted Therapy:

Targeted therapy offers several advantages over traditional cancer treatments:

1. Precision: By specifically targeting cancer cells, targeted therapy minimizes damage to healthy
cells, leading to fewer side effects compared to chemotherapy and radiation.

2. Effectiveness: Targeted therapies can be highly effective, especially in cancers with specific
genetic mutations or markers. For example, patients with HER2-positive breast cancer have
shown significant improvement with HER2-targeted therapies.

3. Personalization: Targeted therapy allows for personalized treatment plans based on the genetic
makeup of an individual’s cancer, increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

4. Improved Quality of Life: With fewer side effects and more effective targeting of cancer cells,
patients often experience a better quality of life during and after treatment.
Challenges and Considerations:

While targeted therapy represents a significant advancement in cancer treatment, it is not without challenges:

1. Resistance: Cancer cells can develop resistance to targeted therapies over time, making it
necessary to find new targets or combine therapies.

2. Accessibility and Cost: Targeted therapies can be expensive and may not be accessible to all
patients. Efforts are ongoing to make these treatments more affordable and widely available.

3. Comprehensive Testing: Effective use of targeted therapy requires comprehensive genetic and
molecular testing to identify the appropriate targets. This may not be available in all healthcare

Targeted therapy has revolutionized the approach to cancer treatment, offering a more personalized
and effective strategy to combat the disease. By focusing on specific molecules and pathways involved
in cancer growth, targeted therapies provide a powerful tool to improve patient outcomes and quality of
life. At CCCHC, we are committed to staying at the forefront of cancer treatment advancements and
providing our patients with access to the latest and most effective therapies. If you or a loved one is
facing a cancer diagnosis, we encourage you to explore the options available with targeted therapy and
discuss them with your healthcare provider.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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