What is Targeted Therapy in Cancer? How Does Targeted Therapy Work?

What is Targeted Therapy in Cancer How Does Targeted Therapy Work

Traditional cancer treatment includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy they involve normal cells also, thus having more side effects in comparison to benefits. Targeted therapy specifically targets unique molecular characteristics of the cancer. Hence it is a revolutionary approach to the treatment of cancer.

Cancer is a complex group of symptoms that combine many diseases and make the life of a patient vulnerable to death. Traditional cancer treatments have side effects because of their non-specific approach and targeted therapy is a successful treatment for cancer patients.

What is Targeted Therapy in cancer?

Targeted therapy is a successful cancer treatment that is used by doctors as a front-line treatment. Sometimes it is combined with other treatments to increase the chances of successful therapies. Doctors check for genetic changes and mutations in the genetic sequence to know the exact cause of cancer in the patient.

After knowing the cause of cancer, targeted therapy is given without hurting the healthy cells of the body. Doctors developed more than 80 types of targeted therapies for different types of cancer. Targets are set for treating cancer cells, they may be inside cells or at the surface of the cells.

Principles of Targeted Therapy

The basic principle of targeted therapy is a deep understanding of the molecular sequence and the changes that lead to cancer. Targeted therapies are mechanized to exploit the growth of cancer cells without harming other cells. It interacts based on molecules at the surface or inner of the cells. The key principle of the targeted therapy includes:

Benefits of Targeted Therapy:

Specific Targeting – Targeted therapy exploits specific molecules that play a role in the growth and survival of cancer cells. They are different types of molecules some are proteins, mutated sequences, and they indicate overexpressing growth. Angiogenesis inhibitor and transduction inhibitors are also part of targeted therapy, and they block the signal of cancer cells.

Less damage to the Healthy Cells – The name targeted therapy indicates its specific work designed for the target molecules or cells.Traditional therapies destroy normal cells, and they can cause the growth of secondary tumors when radiation is not targeted properly at the affected cells. They are accepted easily by doctors to treat patients because of the specificity of the target.

Personalized Medicine – Targeted Therapy works on the principle of interruption to the blood vessels which gives nutrition and oxygen to the cancer cells. There are different patterns of the cancer cells according to the location where they occur.

Cancer cells also give messages to TG vessels for their growth and this signal is more strong than normal cells. They drive nutrition from normal cells and causing weakness in other tissues. This working method is interrupted by the targeted therapies.

Combination Therapy – As already mentioned in some cases doctor feels a need to treat the patient in combination with other treatments. It is because of the complex system or the location of cancer cells in the body. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are common treatments combined with targeted therapy.

How does targeted therapy work?

Targeted therapy works from four sides to inhibit cancer cells and destroy them. There are different levels of work to stop the growth of cancer cells.

Inhibition of Signal Pathways – Targeted therapies work by inhibiting specific signal pathways, these pathways give nutrition and oxygen to malignant tissues. Also, these pathways involve proteins like kinase, and they do metabolic processes of the cells. Examples of inhibitors are tyrosinase kinase inhibitors, which block the activity of tyrosine kinase which activates cancer cells.

Angiogenesis Inhibition – It is process of growth of cancer cells through metagenesis, it is stage of cancer cells when they divide in unlimited manner. Blood supply of these cells increase during this process and blood vessels expand themselves to give more nutrition.

Targeted therapy does angiogenesis inhibition by targeting molecules of vascular endothelial growth factor (VGEF). When blood supply stops cancer cells shrink out and are destroyed.

Blocking Receptors – Targeted therapies inhibit monoclonal antibodies, which bind to the receptors of the cancer cells either at the surface or the inner surface of the nucleus. These receptors prevent further activation of the subsequent signals within cells. These receptors should not be activated otherwise they will be a reason of survival of cancer cells.

Apoptosis Induction – Apoptosis is the phenomenon of programmed cell death it occurs in all cells of the body. The reason behind this is replacing old cells and a controlled divide of the cells for normal functions of the body.

Damaged and unwanted cells are also eliminated through this process. But in the case of cancer cells, this phenomenon is not seen, and apoptosis stops in them. Targeted therapy helps to regain this system and it starts effectively causing the death of cancer cells.

DNA Repair Inhibition – Cancer cells weaken the repair and growth of normal cells and inhibit their working efficiency. They can damage the DNA of the cells and make them more susceptible to radiation and chemotherapy.

This phenomenon is stopped by targeted therapies successfully and promotes the growth of normal cells. This method helps to target cancer cells to do more damage.

Side effects of Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies have benefits over traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but they also have side effects. These side effects are caused from specific drugs.

  1. Diarrhoea
  2. Increased SGOT and SGPT
  3. Dry skin
  4. High blood pressure.
  5. Loss of hair
  6. Changes in nail colour
  7. Damage to heart muscles.
  8. Skin rashes and inflammation
  9. Blood clotting problems.
  10. Increased chances of pulmonary fibrosis.

These symptoms can be seen at one time in a patient otherwise a bulk of symptoms are seen together.


Targeted therapy is a boon to the lakhs of patients and has increased the rate of successful treatment. It has benefits over chemotherapies and radiotherapies but has several disadvantages the targeted therapy. If you are having such symptoms, you can contact Dr. Satish Sharma, a targeted therapy specialist in Ranchi, and he will guide you further.


Is targeted therapy suitable for all types of cancer?

Targeted therapy is most effective for cancers with well-defined molecular targets. Its suitability depends on the cancer type and specific genetic mutations.

Can targeted therapy be used alone or in combination with other treatments?

Targeted therapy can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy, depending on the patient’s condition.

How can I determine if targeted therapy is suitable for my cancer?

Consult with an oncologist or cancer specialist who can assess your cancer type, genetic mutations, and overall health to determine the most appropriate treatment plan, which may include targeted therapy.