Multiple Targeted Cancer Therapies Are Becoming Available to Patients

Ellen Scharaga, of Melville, NY, is a graduate of St. John’s Pharmaceutical Sciences program. Currently, Ellen Scharaga works at OncoMed Pharmaceutical Services as Senior VP of Operations, where she manages oncology pharmacy operations.

A relatively new advancement in the field of oncology, targeted therapies include cancer treatment approaches such as hormone therapies, signal transduction inhibitors, immunotherapies, and toxin delivery molecules.

Each of these treatments targets a specific molecule involved in cancer growth. Hormone therapies, for example, are designed to stop the body’s production of particular hormones that certain tumors need to grow. Signal transduction inhibitors, on the other hand, can interrupt the cancer cell’s continuous division by stopping the biochemical reactions that cause uncontrolled cell division. Unlike hormone therapies or signal transduction inhibitors, immunotherapies are specially designed to prompt the body’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. Alternatively, special antibodies can be designed to deliver toxic molecules to kill only cancer cells and not the surrounding healthy cells.

In addition to these approaches, gene therapy and cancer vaccines are sometimes considered among targeted cancer therapies.