Targeted therapy: The best health guide 2023
Table of Contents
Targeted therapy: The best health guide 2023
We have come a long way forward in treating cancer and have devised novel therapeutics and procedures to get the best results in terms of treatment. One of these novel treatments is targeted therapy. The treatment involves the use of various drugs to specifically target certain cells, proteins, and genes which cause the development of cancer cells. This therapy is approved by the FDA and is sometimes recommended along with chemotherapy for the best treatment results.
What is the difference between chemotherapy and targeted therapy?
As we all know, genes within the nucleus are responsible for the growth and development of cells. These genes pass instructions to the cells which then make proteins that are required for proliferation. In cancer, faulty genes influence the production of endless amounts of such proteins which can be stopped by targeted therapy. However, chemotherapy is a conventional cancer treatment that involves the use of powerful chemicals that stop the growth of cancer cells. Radiotherapy or surgery can also be done along with chemotherapy according to the cancer’s severity.
Targeted therapies are not the same for everyone. The oncologist will first evaluate the genes responsible for influencing tumor growth. Moreover, proteins unique to the cancer cells are targeted which further improves the treatment’s effectiveness. This therapy has the potential to directly kill cancer cells or prevent them from thriving. Chemotherapy also kills cancer cells but healthy cells are also destroyed which cannot be prevented. So, in summary:
· Targeted therapies always target specific proteins, genes, or molecules while cytotoxic chemotherapies also kill healthy cells around the tumor.
· Chemotherapeutic drugs kill cancer cells whereas a targeted therapy is specifically curated in response to the type of molecules/genes/proteins the therapy wants to interact with.
· Most of the targeted therapies are cytostatic, which block or slow down tumor development whereas chemotherapies are cytotoxic which kill tumor cells.
What is the success rate of targeted therapy?
Targeted therapy is a very dynamic form of treatment that is not as simple as hormone therapy or cytotoxic chemotherapy. It is a personalized therapy that targets the substances that help in cancer growth and development. The levels of proteins/molecules produced by cancer cells are compared to normal ones to determine whether the abundantly produced substance could be a potential target for therapy or not.
For example, HER-2 protein appears abundantly over the cell surface in cancers like breast and stomach cancer. Targeted therapy can easily be executed to address the overexpression of HER-2 protein which ultimately treats cancer.
The success rate of targeted therapy is influenced by a plethora of factors like the type of cancer, its severity, and the identified target proteins/molecules/genes. Imatinib was the first drug used to target the BCR ABL kinase protein and block its activity to eventually stop cancer growth in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The use of imatinib for CML has shown a treatment success rate of 90 percent whereas treating CML with chemotherapy is reported to have a success rate of 35 percent.
Unfortunately, every therapy developed does not have the same results. Here’s an example of the drug gefitinib which is used to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) linked with EGFR mutations. When used in targeted therapy, the patients showed cancer-free symptoms for the next 11 months but after 2 years, cancer re-emerged in 90 percent of the patients who were treated with gefitinib.
The success rates of each therapy depend on a lot of factors as we mentioned earlier. Moreover, your oncologist will further suggest to you the best-suited and personalized therapy after extensive evaluation. You can ask about the aim of the proposed therapy, its interaction with your cancer, and the possible side-effects if any.
Which drugs are used for the targeted cancer therapies?
There are a variety of targeted drugs that are categorized as different therapies and have been approved for treatment. Let’s read on further to explore these therapies in detail.
Hormone therapy: Recommended in treating hormone-sensitive cancers by interfering with the hormone function or through blocking the relative hormone-producing gland. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are approved for treatment with hormone therapy.
Signal transduction inhibitors: These inhibitors are used to influence the cell to perform a specific function. A series of chemical reactions are triggered in the cell, ultimately resulting in an appropriate response. For instance, growing tumors have impaired signaling where the tumor growth factors are unable to signal the cancerous cells to stop dividing continuously. The signal transduction inhibitors interfere and resolve the faulty signaling.
Apoptosis inducers: Every cell undergoes a physiological process of programmed cell death or apoptosis which is a natural process that kills any abnormal cells present in the body. Cancer cells easily bypass this process to continue their proliferation but apoptosis inducers can even trigger cell death in these tumors.
Gene expression modulators: This therapy can control the proteins which are used to make genes that could potentially influence cancer development.
Angiogenesis inhibitors: Adequate blood supply is essential for every cell type to thrive and our body can form new blood vessels, according to the requirements of the cells. Tumors too absorb the nutrients and oxygen from the vessels to divide exponentially. Angiogenesis inhibitors suppress the function of vascular endothelial growth factors and other molecules which are responsible for the formation of new blood vessels.
Immunotherapy: In this targeted therapy, monoclonal antibodies are used to trigger the immune system itself that further identifies and targets cancer. The administered monoclonal antibodies bind to the immune cells in effectively killing cancer cells.
To know which type of therapy could be beneficial for you, consult your oncologist for a piece of appropriate advice.
How much does targeted therapy cost?
The American journal of managed care reports that the monthly costs of targeted therapy fall between $5000 to $10,000. The total cost might go even above $100,000. It is no doubt an expensive therapy that needs to be reformed to make targeted therapies accessible to all.