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Leading experts in targeted therapies are here to support you
Targeted therapies are medicines used to block the growth and spread of cancer. The collective name given to this group of medications is systemic anti-cancer therapy (SACT). There are several types of targeted therapy, but they all work by interfering with specific molecular targets, such as genes and proteins.
The targeted therapies we use include monoclonal antibodies, angiogenesis inhibitors, proteasome inhibitors and signal reduction inhibitors. You can learn more about these terms at Targeted therapies – Macmillan Cancer Support. Some types of targeted therapy also include immunotherapy, and some may be referred to as biological therapy.
Your specialist may recommend a targeted therapy as the main treatment or in combination with other treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
If you choose GenesisCare for your cancer treatment, we will work with you to develop a personalised care plan based on your specific diagnosis and preferences.
Throughout your targeted therapy, you’ll also receive support from a team of highly trained nurses and oncology pharmacists who are experts in systemic anti-cancer therapies and the management of side effects.
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Our compassionate nursing teams are available 24 hours a day on their dedicated emergency service line to answer your concerns, provide advice about side effects and medical care.
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How targeted therapy works
Cancer cells have changes in their genes (DNA) that make them behave differently to normal cells. For example, cancer cells can grow faster, die less easily and spread.
Targeted cancer therapies work by ‘targeting’ these differences on a molecular level. This may involve a cancer drug:
- Blocking chemical signals that communicate cancer cell growth and division (signal reduction inhibitors)
- Changing proteins within cancer cells to cause cancer cell death (proteasome inhibitors)
- Encouraging the immune system to attack cancer cells (monoclonal antibodies)
- Stopping cancers from growing blood vessels (angiogenesis inhibitors)
- Carrying toxins, such as a chemotherapy drug, to cancer cells but not normal cells
Thanks to this ‘targeting’ action, these drugs will have an effect on cancer cells but leave most healthy cells alone.
How will I have targeted therapy?
Targeted therapies are one of the main treatments for a few types of cancers. Your targeted therapy may be combined with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy for other cancers to achieve the best outcomes.
How often you have a targeted therapy, how it is given and how long your course of treatment is will depend on your type of cancer and the drugs you’re having.
The main ways to have a targeted therapy are:
- By injection or a drip directly into a vein in your arm (intravenous targeted therapy)
- By mouth as tablets, capsules or liquid (oral targeted therapy)
- By injection into a muscle (intramuscular) or under the skin (subcutaneous)
Side effects of targeted treatment
Most side effects caused by targeted therapies are usually temporary. But because targeted cancer drugs are still relatively new, it’s hard to say precisely how long side effects caused by specific therapies may last. We’ll work closely with you to limit the impact of them as much as possible.
If you experience any of these symptoms it’s important to notify a member of your treatment team so they can support you through any concerns you may have.
Common side effects of targeted therapies include:
Many targeted therapy drugs cause a rash or other skin changes. These include your skin feeling like it’s been sunburned, dry skin, itching, or your skin becoming more sensitive to light.
Some targeted drugs can raise your blood pressure. This is especially so with angiogenesis inhibitors, which focus on stopping cancers from growing blood vessels.
Some targeted therapies interfere with new blood vessel growth, leading to you bleeding more easily, bruising and blood clots.
By blocking new blood vessel growth, some targeted therapies can lead to old wounds opening up and new wounds not closing.
Some targeted cancer drugs can damage the heart. Possible symptoms include chest pain, increased coughing, trouble breathing (especially at night), rapid weight gain, dizziness, fainting, and swelling in the ankles or legs.
Some targeted therapies can result in the immune system attacking normal cells as well as cancer cells. This can lead to serious reactions around the body.
People experience these side effects differently, and we have a range of interventions and therapies to help you through this time. Our nurses and pharmacists have many years of experience, so they understand what you’re going through and are here to give you expert advice and care. Thankfully, many side effects soon pass when treatment stops.
If you decide to have targeted therapy treatment at GenesisCare, your specialist or one of our expert nurses will explain the side effects your targeted therapy is likely to cause and be there with you every step of the way, with advice on how to manage these.