Cancer treatments

Cancer treatments

Expert cancer treatment

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on April 29, 2022.

Cancer treatment is constantly evolving, with new breakthroughs and discoveries changing the course of cancer care at a rapid clip. Deciding which combination of treatments is right for each patient is critical. It may also be overwhelming. That’s why it's important to turn to doctors who treat every stage of cancer.

At City of Hope, our team of oncologists includes board-certified specialists with advanced training and expertise in many cancers—including breast, lung, prostate, colorectal, melanoma, throat, cervical, ovarian, pancreatic, lymphomas and more—as well as the wide array of treatment options available to fight them. These medical specialists are just some of the experts delivering comprehensive cancer care.

Each patient’s care team is assembled according to that patient’s needs and the type of cancer being treated. Some members of the care team, like the medical or radiation oncologist, are dedicated to treating the cancer. Others, such as the dietitian or the pain management physician, help the patient manage the side effects of cancer, to reduce the risk of treatment delays and improve quality of life.

What is cancer?

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, joining forces to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care.

Goals in treating cancer

Following a cancer diagnosis, the care team will discuss the patient’s goals and disease stage to create a personalized treatment plan. The treatment plan may include the types of treatment options listed below.

Primary cancer treatment: During primary treatment, the care team aims to remove or destroy all of the cancer cells.

Adjuvant therapy: During adjuvant therapy, the care team’s goal is to destroy any cancer cells that remain following the primary treatment.

Palliative care: During palliative treatment, the care team works to alleviate side effects of the cancer itself or that result from other cancer treatments.

Cancer treatment options

Our cancer care experts treat cancer with a wide range of standard-of-care and innovative techniques and approaches, including high-tech diagnostic tools, targeted radiation therapies, minimally invasive surgical techniques and cutting-edge treatments identified through the tools of precision medicine.

Our treatment disciplines generally fall into these categories:


One of the most common types of treatment for many cancer types is chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill fast-growing cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is designed to serve multiple functions: It may help treat cancer, prevent it from returning, stop it from spreading, and/or delay its growth. It may also shrink large tumors, helping to relieve pain and other cancer-related symptoms.

As a treatment for cancer, chemotherapy may be administered alone or in combination with other options. Most often, other cancer treatments are utilized along with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy drugs work by destroying cancer cells, but they may also harm healthy cells in the process. As a result, chemotherapy may come with side effects that need to be managed, such as:

Interventional oncology

Interventional oncology is an approach to cancer treatment and care that focuses on precise and less invasive procedures than traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The goal of interventional oncology is to utilize imaging techniques and minimally invasive procedures to precisely deliver cancer treatments to tumors, while minimizing side effects and harm to healthy tissue. Examples include ablation, which applies extreme temperatures to kill cancer cells, and catheter-delivered therapies, which help administer drugs straight to a tumor.

Precision medicine

Precision medicine, or precision oncology, is an individualized approach to treating cancer. It uses personalized drugs and therapies based on genetic and tumor marker tests that analyze the patient's genes or the behaviors in cancer cells. Every tumor has a distinct set of mutations and proteins. Precision medicine allows our doctors to analyze these tumor signatures like fingerprints and design a treatment plan accordingly.

The drugs and therapies used under the umbrella of precision medicine are called targeted therapies. These drugs “target” the specific proteins or mutations within cancer cells and block them from multiplying.

Immunotherapy is a type of precision medicine that triggers the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy is often used in combination with other cancer treatment options, such as surgery or targeted therapy.

Hormone therapy is a type of treatment that may stop or slow the spread of cancers that rely on hormones to multiply.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy employs high-dose energy rays to destroy cancer cells. As a treatment for cancer, radiation therapy may be used independently or along with other cancer treatment options. It may also help shrink the size of a tumor and reduce symptoms associated with advanced cancers.

Radiation therapy is delivered in three main ways: external beam radiation, internal radiation (brachytherapy) and systemic radiation.

  • External beam radiation sends radiation toward the tumor via a machine.
  • Internal radiation involves a radiation source being placed inside the patient's body, either inside or near the cancer.
  • Systemic radiation therapy delivers radioactive drugs, either orally or through an injection.

Cancer surgery

Surgery helps treat cancer by physically removing it. Some types of surgery involve cutting into the patient's body to reach the cancer. Depending on the location of the cancer and other factors, surgery may be open (with a larger incision) or minimally invasive (with tiny incisions). Other surgical methods use different approaches, such as cryosurgery, which destroys cancer cells with cold temperatures.

The goal of surgery in treating cancer varies from total to partial removal of a tumor. As opposed to systemic treatments like chemotherapy, which treat cancer throughout the body, surgery is only used on cancers located in a specific area. Surgery is often combined with other treatment options as well.

Gynecologic oncology

Gynecologic oncology refers to the treatment of cancers that occur in the female reproductive system, including the:

Gynecologic cancers are treated in various ways, including with options such as:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

Hematology oncology

Hematology oncology refers to the treatment of cancers that start in the blood, such as:

Treatment options for these cancers include:

Smoking cessation

Smoking cessation is a key pillar of care at City of Hope because it helps improve cancer therapy outcomes. If a patient has been diagnosed with cancer and still smokes tobacco, the care team will work with the patient on a plan to quit.

Why is smoking cessation a critical part of cancer treatment?

  • Smoking may make cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, less effective.
  • Smoking may increase the toxicity of some cancer drugs.
  • Smoking may weaken the immune system.
  • Smoking may worsen cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
  • Smoking may increase the risk of a cancer recurrence or secondary cancer.

Smoking cessation strategies offered at City of Hope are not one-size-fits-all. City of Hope offers patients who wish to quit smoking several smoking cessation methods so they can develop a personalized quitting plan that works best for them. Strategies may include:   

  • Nicotine replacement products
  • Behavioral strategies to reduce urges
  • Prescription medications
  • Respiratory therapy

Clinical trials for cancer

Clinical trials evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new approaches to treating cancer, either with new drug development, new technologies or by using existing treatments in new ways.

City of Hope offers a wide range of clinical trials for patients seeking innovative cancer treatment options. For those interested in participating, especially those who’ve exhausted standard-of-care approaches, clinical trials potentially provide new cancer treatment options that may not otherwise be considered. Talk to the care team about which trials would be a good match, and what the qualification criteria may be.

Expert cancer care


CALL NOW: 855-680-1184

Advances in cancer treatments

Advances and innovations in the treatment of cancer have created a variety of new options for patients diagnosed with the disease. Immunotherapy and targeted therapy drugs, for instance, have added important options to the list of cancer treatments, and advanced genomic testing is giving doctors the opportunity to treat cancer on a cellular level for some patients.

At City of Hope, we’re committed to bringing our patients new advances in cancer treatments. One way we do that is by offering clinical trials that may lead to new treatments and offer patients options that may not otherwise be available to them.