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Targeted therapy for stomach 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 stomach cancer

Approximately 20 percent of patients with advanced stomach cancer have what is known as human epidermal growth-factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive disease. This means their stomach tumors have a type of gene which stimulates cells to grow and become cancerous.

At CTCA, we test tumors for HER2. If your tumor tests positive, your medical oncologist may recommend the targeted drug Herceptin® as part of your treatment plan. Herceptin, or trastuzumab, is a monoclonal antibody which targets the HER2 gene, aiming to slow or stop it from triggering the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Sometimes, targeted therapy for stomach cancer causes side effects, like fatigue, which can interfere with your quality of life.

Throughout your stomach cancer treatment, we will provide integrative oncology services, including nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management and mind-body medicine. These therapies can help reduce treatment-related side effects and keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.

Although relatively new as a stomach cancer treatment, Herceptin has been used to treat breast cancer for more than a decade. Most often, it is used in combination with chemotherapy for stomach cancer. But, in some cases, this form of targeted therapy may be used alone.

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