Types of targeted therapy

Each type of targeted therapy drug works on a specific molecular target. The two main groups of drugs are monoclonal antibodies and small molecule inhibitors.

Learn more about:

Listen to a podcast on New Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy

Monoclonal antibodies

These medicines are manufactured (synthetic) versions of immune system proteins called antibodies, which are part of the body’s natural defence against infections. The synthetic antibodies lock onto a protein on the surface of cells or surrounding tissues to interfere with the growth or survival of cancer cells in some way.

Monoclonal antibodies can be classified as either a targeted therapy or immunotherapy, depending on the type of monoclonal antibody. Examples of targeted therapy monoclonal antibodies include:

These drugs are designed to reduce the blood supply to a tumour to slow or stop it growing. They target various receptors or proteins linked with the growth of cancer cells and stop them from working. For example, bevacizumab targets vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that helps new blood vessels form.
HER2 is a protein that causes cancer cells to grow uncontrollably. Some targeted therapy drugs destroy the HER2 positive cancer cells, or reduce their ability to divide and grow. Examples include trastuzumab and pertuzumab, which are used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer.
monoclonal antibodies
These drugs target a protein called CD20 found on some B-cell leukaemias and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Examples include rituximab and obinutuzumab.

Small molecule inhibitors

These drugs can get inside cancer cells and block certain enzymes and proteins that tell cancer cells to grow. Examples of small molecule inhibitors include:

Tyrosine kinase
inhibitors (TKIs)
These drugs block a group of enzymes called tyrosine kinases from sending signals that tell cancer cells to grow, multiply and spread. Without this signal, the cancer cells die. Examples of TKIs include erlotinib, sunitinib, lapatinib and ibrutinib.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)
These drugs block mTOR, an enzyme that tells cancer cells to grow and spread. Everolimus is an mTOR inhibitor approved for use for some types of kidney cancer.
PARP inhibitors These drugs stop the protein known as PARP from repairing damaged DNA in cancer cells. Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor approved for use in some ovarian, fallopian tube and peritoneal cancers.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Targeted Therapy

    Understanding Targeted Therapy

  • 128 kB

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2018
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono legal and financial matters, no interest loans or help with small business

Cancer information

Living with advanced cancer
Coping with cancer that has spread and making treatment decisions

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends