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What is Targeted Therapy (Precision Medicine)?

Traditional chemotherapy works by killing cells that multiply quickly, whether normal or cancerous. Targeted therapy, a type of precision medicine, is different. It works by stopping or slowing the growth or spread of cancer. This happens on a cellular level. Cancer cells need specific molecules, often in the form of proteins, to survive, multiply and spread. These molecules are usually made by the genes that cause cancer, as well as the cells themselves. Targeted therapies are designed to interfere with, or target, these molecules or the cancer-causing genes that create them. In some cases, the drug will attach to the molecule it targets, stopping it from doing its job. Other times, the drug will physically block the molecule from the place it normally goes. By stopping the normal work of these molecules, cancer’s growth can be slowed or even stopped. Doctors may perform genomic tests to look for abnormalities in tumor DNA or blood. This can determine which genes are mutated or have extra copies and if there are gene abnormalities that can be targeted.

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