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 thyroid cancer
Vandetanib (Caprelsa®) is the first targeted drug to demonstrate a significant benefit in thyroid cancer, and it has been approved specifically for patients with symptomatic medullary cancers that have progressed on other therapies. A large clinical trial showed that in patients with this specific type of cancer, vandetanib stopped the cancer cells from growing for on average six months longer than compared to a placebo.
The most common side effects associated with this type of targeted drug therapy are diarrhea, rash, nausea, high blood pressure, headache, fatigue, decreased appetite and abdominal pain. However, vandetanib has also been associated with rare but serious side effects, such as an irregular heartbeat, heart failure or infection, in some cases resulting in death.
If your doctors at CTCA think you are a candidate for targeted drug therapy using this agent, they will thoroughly discuss the risks and benefits of this treatment, and your care team will work with you and watch you closely for any potential side effects.
In addition, some targeted drugs that affect the growth of new blood vessels in tumors, and which are used to treat other types of cancers, have also demonstrated activity in several subtypes of thyroid cancer. In some cases, your doctor may also suggest these as options.