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 found in or on the surface of cancer cells (for example, they may be genes or proteins).
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When is targeted therapy used?
Targeted therapy can often be given by mouth as tablets or capsules. These drugs can be highly effective, but they will only work if the cancer contains the particular gene or protein 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 is currently available for people with NSCLC whose tumours have specific genetic changes (mutations) when the cancer is advanced or has come back after initial surgery or radiation therapy. This area of science is changing rapidly, and it’s likely that new mutations and targeted therapy drugs will continue to be discovered. Talk to your oncologist about clinical trials.
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, it can still have side effects. These vary depending on the targeted therapy drugs used – common side effects include:
- skin changes such as acne-like rash
It’s important to report any new or worsening side effects to your medical 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 about how these drugs work, see our general section on Targeted therapy.
Video: What is Targeted therapy?
Listen to our podcasts on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy and Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Prof Kwun Fong, Thoracic and Sleep Physician and Director, UQ Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Renae Grundy, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Lung, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; A/Prof Brian Le, Director, Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and The University Of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Margot Lehman, Senior Radiation Oncologist and Director, Radiation Oncology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Susana Lloyd, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Nicole Parkinson, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia.
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