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Targeted therapy for leukemia


Targeted therapy for leukemia

Unlike standard chemotherapy which affects all cells in the body, targeted therapy directly seeks out leukemia cells, helping to reduce damage to healthy cells and minimize side effects.

These therapies are commonly used at CTCA® for the treatment of CLL. Some examples are alemtuzumab (Campath®) and rituximab (Rituxan®).

Targeted therapy may be used in combination with other leukemia treatments, such as chemotherapy. Your care team will work together to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique diagnosis and needs.

Helping you maintain your quality of life

Targeted therapy may cause side effects that interfere with your ability to participate in activities you enjoy. For example, you may experience a reduction in blood counts, which can lead to fatigue and risk of infection. Other potential side effects may include: fever, chills, headache, rash, nausea and shortness of breath.

Throughout your leukemia treatment, your care team works together to provide integrative oncology services, such as naturopathic medicine, nutrition therapy, pain management, mind-body medicine, oncology rehabilitation and spiritual support. These therapies can help reduce treatment-related side effects so you can better tolerate treatment while maintaining your quality of life.

Leukemia targeted therapies

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted therapies are drugs or other substances designed to block the growth and spread of cancer by preventing cancer cells from dividing or by destroying them directly. While standard chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, targeted therapy directs drugs or other specially created substances (e.g.,  immune system proteins developed in the lab) to attack cancer cells. The goal of targeted therapy is to interfere with genes or proteins involved in tumor growth to block the spread of the disease.

By targeting specific molecules that are responsible for the growth, progression and spread of cancer, targeted therapy differs from standard chemotherapy, which attacks the disease systemically and, therefore, also damages healthy cells. Because targeted therapy specifically seeks out cancer cells, it is designed to reduce the harm to healthy cells, which may lead to fewer side effects than standard chemotherapy.

Targeted therapies serve as the foundation of precision medicine, which uses information about a person’s genes or a tumor’s DNA profile to identify additional treatment options. Tailored treatments target abnormalities that may be found in each tumor’s DNA profile. This innovation marks a shift from traditional treatments designed for the average patient, toward more precise therapies.

Targeted therapy is an evolving science, and not all cancer types may be treated with targeted drugs. Several targeted therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in cancer treatment, including hormone therapies, immunotherapies, signal transduction inhibitors, apoptosis inducers, gene expression modulators, angiogenesis inhibitors and toxin delivery molecules.

To help identify an appropriate targeted therapy for your cancer, your doctor may order tests to learn more about the genetic disposition, protein composition and other factors the tumor exhibits. Patients may be a candidate for targeted therapy if the cancer did not respond to other therapies, has spread, is inoperable or meets other criteria. Targeted therapy may also be combined with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy.

Targeted therapy may be prescribed as oral pills, administered intravenously or delivered in other ways. Targeted therapy drugs may be administered in the hospital, or prescribed in pill form and taken at home. The treatment schedule is specific to each person and his or her cancer.