Targeted Therapy

What are targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy are a type of drugs used specifically to treat certain types of cancer. They are drugs developed to interfere specifically with one or more of the processes of intracellular signalling which are typically overactive in malignant cells.

How do targeted therapy work?

In some cases of lung cancer, for instance, a specific mutation [e.g. within the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor within the cell membrane of the malignant cells] results in over-activity of a metabolic pathway, making the cell proliferate in an uncontrolled [malignant] way. Pharmaceutical companies have developed a number of drugs [e.g. Gefitinib, Erlotinib] which can specifically block [target] the effects of a single mutation thus switching off the malignant behaviour.

What are the benefits?

These drugs do not interfere with the normal cells commonly affected by chemotherapy (e.g. hair follicle and white blood cell precursors) and therefore do not cause hair loss and reduced immunity.

How safe are they?

Some of these agents can be given in tablet form and are often safer than chemotherapy drugs, although they do have some side-effects. Targeted agents are being developed rapidly but still are appropriate for only certain malignancies (e.g. the minority of lung cancer cases bearing the EGFR activating mutation).

Paying for your treatment

You have two options to pay for your treatment – your costs may be covered by your private medical insurance, or you can pay for yourself. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the consultants’ fees and the hospital charge for your procedure.

For further information or to book a consultation or treatment, please get in touch with our cancer enquiries team: Call us on 0800 157 7747

Content reviewed by Professor Michael Cullen, Consultant Medical Oncologist at BMI The Priory Hospital: October 2014

Want to look at other treatments? or find it on the A-Z list.