Targeted Therapy

Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute offers targeted therapy, a type of cancer treatment that focuses on addressing the genetic changes (mutations) that cause healthy cells to become cancerous. One of the main benefits that targeted therapy offers over some other forms of cancer treatment is it’s ability to treat cancerous cells without harming healthy cells.

What Conditions Is Targeted Therapy Used to Treat

Targeted therapy can be used to treat numerous types of cancer, including:

What Does Targeted Therapy Involve?

Prior to starting targeted therapy, a cancer treatment team will perform a blood test or a biopsy to determine exactly which genetic changes are causing a patient’s healthy cells to become cancerous. They’ll also identify any targets that may be responsive to treatment. Then, they’ll develop a course of treatment aimed at specific areas of the cancerous cells, with the ultimate goal of destroying the cancer cells and/or preventing them from growing any further.

Two of the most common types of targeted therapy include:

  • Monoclonal antibodies – Lab-produced proteins are specially engineered to attack certain foreign substances (antigens)
  • Small-molecule drugs – Thanks to their low molecular weight, small-molecule drugs can attach to cancerous cells.

Some specific types of targeted therapy include

  • Angiogenesis inhibitors, which stop the growth of blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients to cancerous cells
  • Proteasome inhibitors, which obstruct certain enzymes from digesting proteins
  • Signal transduction inhibitors, which stop proteins within cancerous cells from communicating with each other

Targeted therapy may be administered orally, as an injection or through an IV. The frequency of treatment varies from one patient to another, with some individuals receiving treatment every day and others receiving it on a weekly or monthly basis. It’s important to note that targeted therapy is often used in combination with other types of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

What to Expect During Targeted Therapy

The main benefit of targeted therapy is that it can destroy cancerous cells while sparing healthy cells. However, as with any form of treatment, targeted therapy presents certain risks. These risks will vary based on the specific type of treatment being administered but may include:

  • Cancer cell resistance
  • Heart muscle damage
  • Issues with blood clotting and wound healing
  • Liver damage
  • Neurological changes
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

Patients who choose to undergo targeted therapy may also experience certain side effects. Depending on the type of treatment being used, these may include:

  • Changes in the fingernails and toenails
  • Changes in the heart’s rhythm
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Increased sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) light (photosensitivity)
  • Loss of hair color
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin rashes

Is Targeted Therapy Effective?

The success rate of targeted therapy varies from one patient to another depending on factors such as the type of cancer being treated and how far the cancer has already progressed. A trained medical provider can offer advice that’s tailored to a patient’s unique circumstances. With that said, for many individuals, targeted therapy is a highly effective form of cancer treatment.

Your Top Choice for Targeted Therapy in Tampa Bay

If you think you might be a candidate for targeted therapy, turn to Tampa General Hospital, recognized as one of the Nation's Best Hospitals for Cancer Care by U.S. News and World Report for 2024-25. Our specialists are highly experienced in using targeted therapy to treat cancer and can help you determine whether this form of treatment is appropriate for your specific condition.

Contact Tampa General Hospital (800) 844-4151 to learn more about targeted therapy and schedule an appointment with one of our cancer specialists.