Definition of Molecularly Targeted Therapy

Treatment approaches for cancer that interfere with specific molecular functions within cancer cells to prevent them from dividing. The most significant benefit of molecularly targeted therapies is that they can selectively alter the function of specific cancer cells without affecting the function of normal cells.

They do so primarily by targeting the protein signals cancer cells use that regulate their growth and division.

These signals may be ones that promote growth or regulate apoptosis (natural cell death). The drugs that target them may be signaltransduction inhibitors (also called small-molecule drugs), apoptosis-inducing drugs, and monoclonal antibodies (mabs).

Current molecularly targeted therapies are especially promising for cancers that have a widespread presence in a vital organ or throughout the body, such as small-cell lung cancer (sclc) and multiple myeloma, which makes them difficult to treat through other approaches. Because molecularly targeted therapies are so new, doctors do not know their risks or long-term consequences or the extent to which they may be effective in treating cancers in general.

Drugs Used in Molecularly Targeted Therapies

  • bortezomib (Velcade)
  • gefitinib (Iressa)
  • imatinib mesylate (Gleevec)
  • oblimersen (Genasense)
  • rituximab (Rituxan)
  • trastuzumab (Herceptin)

See also CANCER TREATMENT OPTIONS AND DECISIONSCELL STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONCHEMOTHERAPY; IMMUNOTHERAPY; ONCOGENESTUMOR SUPPRESSOR GENES.

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