Who benefits from targeted therapy?
Targeted therapy drugs have been approved for use in Australia for bowel, breast, cervical, kidney, lung, ovarian, stomach and thyroid cancers, as well as melanoma and some forms of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
The development of targeted therapy drugs has led to improved survival rates for several types of cancer and some people have had very encouraging outcomes. These drugs are becoming an increasingly important part of cancer treatment.
Targeted therapy drugs may be used:
- after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells
- to treat advanced cancer that hasn’t responded to other treatment, or cancer that has come back
- as maintenance treatment for advanced cancer to try to prevent the cancer coming back.
Less commonly, targeted therapy drugs are used as the first treatment for primary cancer or in combination with radiation therapy.
Many targeted therapy drugs are not safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Ask your doctor for advice about contraception. If you become pregnant, let your medical team know immediately.
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This information was reviewed by: Dr Fiona Day, Medical Oncologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle, NSW; Dawn Bed , 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Jennifer Cardwell, Consumer; Christine Henneker, Nurse Practitioner Cancer Services, WA Country Health Service, WA; Dr Rohit Joshi, Medical Oncology Consultant, Calvary Central Districts Hospital, and Clinical Lecturer, University of Adelaide, SA; Prof Ross McKinnon, Director, Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, SA; Prof Miles Prince, Haematologist, Director of Molecular Oncology and Cancer Immunology, Epworth HealthCare, VIC; Prof Ben Solomon, Medical Oncologist, and Group Leader, Molecular Therapeutics and Biomarkers Laboratory, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Subotheni Thavaneswaran, Medical Oncologist, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital, and Translational Research Fellow, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, NSW; A/Pro Kathy Tucker, Clinical Cancer Geneticist, Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre, NSW.
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Targeted therapy is a type of drug treatment that attacks specific features of cancer cells, known as molecular targets, to stop the cancer growing and spreading. Other names for targeted therapy include biological therapies and molecular targeted therapy.