Targeted Therapy

A targeted therapy is one that is designed to treat only the cancer cells and minimize damage to normal, healthy cells. Cancer treatments that “target” cancer cells may offer the advantage of reduced treatment-related side effects and improved outcomes. Targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules ("molecular targets") that are involved in the growth, progression, and spread of cancer

Conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, cannot distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells. Consequently, healthy cells are commonly damaged in the process of treating the cancer, which results in side effects. Treatment-related damage to healthy cells leads to complications of treatment, or side effects. Targeted therapy drugs, like other drugs used to treat cancer, are technically considered chemotherapy. But targeted therapy drugs don’t work the same way as standard chemotherapy drugs. Targeted therapies act on specific molecular targets that are associated with cancer, whereas most standard chemotherapies act on all rapidly dividing normal and cancerous cells.  Targeted therapies are often cytostatic (they block tumor cell growth), whereas standard chemotherapy agents are cytotoxic (they kill tumor cells). Scientists had expected that targeted cancer therapies would be less toxic than traditional chemotherapyy drugs because cancer cells are more dependent on the targets than are normal cells. However, targeted cancer therapies can have substantial side effects as well.

Targeted therapies are currently the focus of much anticancer drug development.  This type of drug development uses information about a person's genes and protetins to prevent, diagnose and treat disease.  It is often referred to as "personalized medicine", but the term "precision medicine"  is also used to describe how this stype of research identifies patterns of disease that leads to better individual treatments.