Targeted therapy and immunotherapy
Some people with cancer of unknown primary (CUP) may be offered targeted therapy. This is a type of drug treatment that attacks particular features of cancer cells, known as molecular targets, to stop the cancer growing and spreading. Many targeted therapy drugs are given by mouth as tablets, but some are given by injection.
Learn more about:
- Is targeted therapy suitable for you?
- Side effects of targeted therapy
- Immunotherapy for CUP
- Video: What are targeted therapy and immunotherapy?
Is targeted therapy suitable for you?
To check whether targeted therapy is suitable for your situation, your doctors need to test the cancer to see if the cells contain a particular molecular target that is helping the cancer grow. Different people with the same cancer type may receive different treatments based on their test results. Only a small number of CUP tumours will be suitable for a particular targeted therapy.
Clinical trials are testing combinations of chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs to see whether they work for CUP.
Side effects of targeted therapy
Targeted therapy drugs minimise harm to healthy cells, but they can still have side effects. These side effects vary greatly depending on the drug used and how your body responds.
Common side effects of targeted therapy include:
- mouth ulcers
- changes in appetite
- allergic reactions
- skin rashes
For more on this, see our general section on Targeted therapy.
Immunotherapy for CUP
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Sometimes the results of specialised tests on a CUP tumour may suggest that immunotherapy could help to treat the cancer. However, immunotherapy drugs currently approved for other cancers are still being tested within clinical trials to work out how often they help people with CUP. You can ask your specialist for more information.
For more on this, see our general section on Immunotherapy.
Video: What are targeted therapy and immunotherapy?
If you have cancer, drug therapy may play a big role in your treatment plan. Watch this short video to learn more about drug therapies, including targeted and immunotherapy.
Podcast: Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist, Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Christine Bradfield, Consumer; Cindy Bryant, Consumer; Dr Maria Cigolini, Head, Department of Palliative Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and Clinical Lecturer, The University of Sydney, NSW; Mary Duffy, Advanced Practice Nurse and Nurse Coordinator, Lung Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Siobhan O’Neill, Medical Oncologist, Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre, NSW; Prof Penelope Schofield, Department of Psychological Sciences and the Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology, and Head, Behavioural Science in Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Frank Stoss, Consumer.
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