Targeted Therapy

Cancer cells require specific molecules (also referred to as “proteins”) to grow and multiply. These molecules are typically created by cancer cells or by cancer-causing genes. Targeted therapies “target” these molecules, or the genes that create these molecules, to slow or stop cancer growth. Patients’ blood or tumor tissue are typically tested to determine if any of these molecules are present prior to initiating treatment with a targeted therapy.

Targeted therapies can be given alone or in addition to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These treatments can be administered orally (usually as a pill) or intravenously. There are two broad types of targeted therapies – small molecule drugs and monoclonal antibodies. Small molecule drugs are small enough to enter directly into cancer cells and interfere with molecules inside the cells. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that attach to targets found on the outer membrane of cancer cells and interfere with cancer-causing molecules through various mechanisms.

Current molecular targets in lung cancer: