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Targeted therapy for oral 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 oral cancer

One potential target in oral cancer is the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR. Studies have shown that many oral cancer cells contain too many copies of EGFR. This excess allows the cancer cells to grow faster and to become resistant to radiation and/or chemotherapy. Treating oral cancer with a drug that targets EGFR may help kill cancer cells without harming normal tissues.

Your oncologist may suggest using an EGFR-targeted drug in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat oral cancer. If cancer has stopped responding to radiation and chemotherapy, then oral cancer targeted drug therapy may be used on its own to help control the disease.

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