Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells, which can affect any part of the body. It is a life-threatening disease and has garnered a lot of attention over the decades. There are different types of cancer treatments available.
The type of treatment provided depends upon the type of cancer and the stage. Some patients receive only one kind of treatment but in most cases, a combination of treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy is used.
Cancers that can be easily removed from the body are removed through surgery. Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. In chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill cancer cells.
Newer types of treatments are available for cancer today, of which Immunotherapy and targeted therapy are very recent. Immunotherapy uses the immune system of the patient to fight cancer. Targeted therapy targets, particular cancer cells, and induces drugs specifically into it.
Hormone therapy treatments have helped to slow down or stop the growth of breast and prostate cancers. Patients who have reduced stem cells as the result of high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy are given stem cell transplants to restore blood-forming stem cells.
Targeted therapy for cancer
Targeted cancer therapies are called ‘molecularly targeted drugs’, ‘molecularly targeted therapies’, or ‘precision medicines’. These are basically drugs that stop the growth and spread of cancer cells by targeting specific molecules that cause the growth or progression of cancer in the body.
Difference between chemotherapy and targeted therapy
While the regular form of treatment like chemotherapy affects both cancer and healthy cells, the targeted therapies act on specific molecular targets affected by cancer. While chemotherapy kills cancer cells, targeted cancer therapy block cell proliferation. Today, the anticancer drug developments are focused on targeted therapies for solutions.
Most standard drugs are designed to kill cancer cells. Since cancer cells grow rapidly, these drugs tend to kill both affected cells and healthy cells. Targeted therapies target the part of the cancer cell, which makes them different from other cells.
The target drugs can block or turn off chemicals signals causing cancer cells to grow, change the proteins within the cells causing them to die, stop making new blood vessels that help cancer cells, trigger the immune system to attack and kill cancer cells, or carry toxins and kill cancer cells without affecting normal cells.
Nanotechnology and cancer treatments
Nanotechnology is used in cancer treatments to carry the drugs to the site of cancer. These nanocarriers help focus on the exact cell that needs to be attended to.
Targeted therapy for cancer is not without limitations. The cancer cells can become resistant to these therapies by changes through mutation or by finding a new path to grow cancer that does not depend on the target drug.
Hence, targeted therapies may work best when combined with other forms of treatments. However, the new approaches offer hope that anticancer drugs will be developed soon or that we will use new treatments that cause little or no damage to healthy cells.