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Targeted therapy for colorectal cancer

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy blocks the growth and spread of cancer by preventing cancer cells from dividing or destroying them directly.

While standard chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, targeted therapy directs drugs or other specially created substances (e.g., man-made immune system proteins) to attack cancer cells. The goal of targeted therapy is to interfere with specific molecules involved in tumor growth to block the growth and spread of the disease.

Because targeted therapy specifically seeks out cancer cells, it can avoid harm to healthy cells. In turn, targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than standard chemotherapy.

Targeted therapy for colorectal cancer

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a targeted drug therapy being used for colorectal cancer treatment at CTCA. Monoclonal antibodies are bioengineered proteins that help leverage the body’s natural immune response to recognize, attack and destroy colorectal cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone or in combination with colorectal cancer chemotherapy.

Currently, medical oncologists at CTCA are using the following monoclonal antibodies to help treat metastatic colorectal cancer:

  • Bevacizumab (Avastin®) aims to prevent the growth of new blood vessels to tumors. This can help cut off a tumor’s blood supply, starving the tumor of the nutrients it needs to grow.
  • Cetuximab (Erbitux®) works by binding to a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor, which exists on the surface of cells. This targeted cancer therapy helps block growth signals from reaching the inside of colorectal cancer cells, putting a stop to their division and growth.
  • Panitumumab (Vectibix®) also targets and binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor, preventing growth signals from reaching the inside of colorectal cancer cells. This stops their division and growth.

Other targeted drugs we use to treat advanced colorectal cancer include ziv-aflibercept (Zaltrap®) and regorafenib (Stivarga®). Zaltrap can stop the supply of blood to tumors. Stivarga aims to block growth signals, stop the formation of new blood vessels to tumors and slow the growth of tissue that connects cancer cells.

As protocols for colorectal cancer targeted therapies continue to be approved, CTCA will make every effort to offer new treatment regimens to patients.

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