What is targeted therapy?
Cancer cells depend on certain molecules (such as proteins) to stay alive, grow or spread in the body. Cancer cells grow uncontrollably, which poses a danger to your health.
Targeted therapies are drugs designed to “target” specific molecules inside cancer cells or the cancer-causing genes that make these molecules. Ultimately, these drugs cause cancer cells to stop growing or even attack themselves. Targeted therapy is an active area of focus for cancer researchers today.
Targeted therapy is just one type of cancer medication. Your doctor may also recommend chemotherapy or cancer immunotherapy drugs as part of your treatment plan.
How to talk to your doctor about targeted therapy
Research surrounding targeted therapy drugs continues to evolve. Doctors still have much to learn about precisely how targeted therapies work and who they can help. Our doctors work closely with scientists to base treatment recommendations on leading scientific evidence.
We perform specialized tests (called molecular profiling tests) to find out which genetic marker is driving a tumor. A tumor biopsy or blood biopsy (simple blood test) can identify these genetic markers for targeted therapy. These details help us determine whether or which targeted therapies may benefit you.
Your doctor may recommend targeted therapy in combination with other therapies, such as cancer surgery, radiation therapy or other cancer treatments.
Cancer treatment is complex. We understand that care recommendations can be confusing. A member of our team will sit down with you to explain what your treatment plan involves and what you can expect from each therapy. We encourage you to bring up questions or concerns, whether during appointments or while at home.
We can also guide you to resources focused on optimizing your whole health throughout cancer treatment. Learn more about patient and family services during cancer care or our Supportive Cancer Care Clinic.
Targeted therapy: What to expect
Targeted therapy is a systemic cancer treatment. Drugs travel through your bloodstream to treat cancer throughout the body.
Targeted therapies may cause different side effects than other systemic therapies. Some targeted therapies offer the potential of fewer side effects and an increased quality of life compared to chemotherapy. But depending on which targeted therapies you receive, side effects can still be serious.
Our experts understand the nuances of individual cancer treatments. They use this knowledge to recommend therapies that are right for your situation and help you manage any side effects you experience.
Most targeted therapy drugs come in a pill that you swallow. Some can be delivered intravenously via:
- Infusion: A nurse places an IV into a vein in your hand or arm. Medicine enters your bloodstream through the IV and travels throughout your body.
- Port: A radiologist or surgeon places a port (a small device connected to a flexible tube) under the skin, in the upper chest or just below your collarbone. The port acts as a semi-permanent IV, so a nurse can more easily deliver medication.
- Central line: A surgeon places a long, thin tube under the skin (in the neck, chest or arm). A nurse uses this tube (also called a catheter) to deliver medication.
You can receive all medical oncology treatment services your doctor recommends at Mays Cancer Center. Oncology-certified nurses and other team members are trained to care for your needs.
At our infusion center, you will find comfortable chairs, friendly staff, televisions and Wi-Fi access for your convenience. We provide ample space so a friend or family member can easily support you during treatment sessions.
Why choose us for targeted therapy for cancer treatment?
Highlights of our program include:
- Commitment to excellence: We are the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Central and South Texas. This designation illustrates our doctors’ expertise in treating many types of cancer.
- Leading therapies: We offer some of today’s latest cancer treatments, including advanced options like targeted therapy drugs. Our respected research program gives you access to even more treatment options — some available exclusively at our center. Your doctor can explain how any clinical trial you may be eligible for could enhance your treatment. Learn more about clinical trial treatments.
- Coordinated care: At Mays Cancer Center in San Antonio, you can receive a full spectrum of cancer treatment services. Our doctors can often provide several services in one day to streamline your care and make the treatment process easier for you.
- Personalized treatment: Our team performs specialized molecular and genetic tests on-site. Knowing genetic and molecular details about a cancer helps us personalize your treatment plan faster. This capability, which is uncommon in South and Central Texas, helps us recommend treatments that fit your needs.
Types of cancer we treat
Our experts have experience treating a wide range of early and advanced cancers, including rare and complex tumors. A team of cancer specialists works together to determine which therapy or combination of treatments are best for your situation.
Find out more about the cancer types we treat.