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.

The modern era of 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 you is critical. It can also be overwhelming. That’s why it is important to turn to doctors who treat every stage of cancer.

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 care at City of Hope.

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.

How we treat cancer

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 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 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 of the use of interventional oncology in cancer treatment 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 tests that analyze the patient's genes or the behaviors in cancer cells. In every tumor is a distinct set of mutations and proteins. Precision medicine allows our doctors to analyze these patterns 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.

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

Hematologic oncology

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

Treatment options for these cancers include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant

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 your care team about which trials would be a good match for you, and whether you qualify.

Expert cancer care


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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.