Biological targeted therapies exploit the ways a cancer cell behaves differently from a normal cell. These drugs can slow the cancer cell’s growth and spare the healthy cells to a greater extent than traditional chemotherapy. Although they still have some side effects, they can be given over a prolonged time to give lasting cancer control. These drugs are now widely used in cancer and common examples are traztuzumab (Herceptin™) in breast cancer and erlotinib (Tarceva™) in lung cancer.
Antiangiogenic Therapy blocks the growth of new blood vessels, which are required for the cancer to grow. An example of antiangionic therapy is bevacuzimab (Avastin™), which is used in various cancers including breast, bowel and ovarian cancer.
Immunotherapy uses drugs to stimulate the body’s own immune system, causing it to attack the cancer. There is extensive and ongoing research to identify which cancers may benefit from this approach and it has shown promise in kidney cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma.
Radioisotope therapy involves joining a radioactive element to a drug so that it can enter the body by injection or by mouth. The treatment is then taken up by the target tissue and the radiation travels very short distances to attack the cancer cells from within the body tissues. An example is Radium 223, used for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.