Targeted therapy for lung cancer
This is a type of drug treatment that attacks specific features of cancer cells, known as molecular targets, to stop the cancer growing and spreading. The molecular targets are usually particular gene changes that are found in or on the surface of cancer cells.
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When is targeted therapy used?
Targeted therapy is currently available for people with NSCLC whose tumours have specific gene changes when the cancer is advanced or has come back after initial surgery or radiation therapy. These drugs will only work if the cancer contains the particular gene targeted and, even then, they do not work for everyone. Ask your oncologist about molecular testing and whether targeted therapy is an option for you.
Targeted therapy can often be given by mouth as tablets or capsules.
This area of cancer treatment is changing rapidly, and it’s likely that new gene changes and targeted therapy drugs will continue to be discovered. Talk to your oncologist about any clinical trials that may be suitable for you.
Cancer cells often become resistant to targeted therapy drugs over time. If the first-line treatment stops working, your oncologist may suggest trying another targeted therapy drug or another systemic treatment. This is known as second-line treatment.
Side effects of targeted therapy
Although targeted therapy may cause less harm to healthy cells than chemotherapy, it can still have side effects. These side effects vary depending on the type of targeted therapy drugs used.
Common side effects that may develop include:
- skin changes such as acne-like rash
Targeted therapies may also cause pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung tissue), which can lead to breathing problems. It’s important to report any new or worsening side effects to your treatment team. If left untreated, some side effects can become serious and may even be life-threatening. For a detailed list of side effects, visit eviq.org.au.
For more information, see our general section on Targeted therapy.
Video: What is Targeted therapy?
Learn more about targeted and immunotherapy in this short video.
Podcast: Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
A/Prof Brett Hughes, Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Brendan Dougherty, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Specialist, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Kim Greco, Nurse Consultant – Lung Cancer, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Rohit Joshi, Medical Oncologist, GenesisCare and Lyell McEwin Hospital, Director, Cancer Research SA; Kathlene Robson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council ACT; Peter Spolc, Consumer; Nicole Taylor, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Rosemary Taylor, Consumer; A/Prof Gavin M Wright, Director of Surgical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital and Research and Education Lead – Lung Cancer, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC.
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