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Targeted therapies for malignant mesothelioma are new and more focused than the traditional chemotherapy most often used to treat this cancer. They target specific genes or proteins to make treatment more effective and safer.
What Is Targeted Mesothelioma Therapy?
Targeted mesothelioma therapy is a mode of treatment for cancers that focuses specifically on destroying cancerous cells and sparing the healthy cells surrounding them. They target DNA and specific proteins.
Unlike older, traditional forms of cancer therapy such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment, targeted therapies reduce damage to healthy tissue while doling out as much damage as possible to malignant tissue.
How Does Targeted Therapy Work?
There are a variety of targeted therapies, each of which works differently—but the premise behind them all is the same: destroy cancer cells and spare healthy cells to reduce tumor size and keep cancer from spreading.
Rather than attacking a wide swath of tissues, healthy or cancerous, as radiation therapy or traditional chemotherapy does, targeted therapy is just that—it targets proteins in the “bad” cells.
The aim of using this treatment is to “shoot down” the bad cells without having healthy tissue become a casualty in the war on cancer.
What Types of Targeted Therapies Are There?
There are several varieties of targeted cancer therapy available. They use a different mechanism to fulfill the same purpose: targeting cancer cells for destruction while protecting the healthy cells surrounding them. Let’s discuss a few of them in greater detail:
Those That Affect Expression of Genes
Some targeted therapies aim to control the expression of genes that give rise to cancer (or that suppress tumors). These targeted agents are designed to flip a genetic switch, telling the genes that control cancer growth or tumor inhibition to turn on or off.
Several genetic factors control mesothelioma, so multiple agents may have to be used for this form of targeted therapy to be effective.
Those That Affect Hormone Regulation
These targeted agents control particular hormones involved in cancer growth and proliferation. They can help halt the growth and spread of tumors by telling certain hormones to produce more or less of themselves.
Those That Affect the Immune System’s Response to Cancer
Some forms of targeted therapy work by causing the immune system to work against the cancerous cells in the body. The targeted therapies that manipulate the immune system show great promise in keeping tumor growth and spread under control. They induce an autoimmune response that singles out cancer cells.
Those That Enact Cancer Cell Death
Some targeted agents cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Apoptosis is a preprogrammed cellular death that a cell has encoded into itself. Essentially, it is a form of “cellular suicide,” programmed to take place under a given set of circumstances.
Researchers have found that some drugs work to induce this preprogrammed cell death in mesothelioma tumors.
Who Are the Best Candidates for Targeted Therapies?
All cases of mesothelioma can be considered for targeted therapy options to determine the appropriateness of use. It depends on several factors, including the stage and type of mesothelioma.
Ongoing research continues to evaluate targeted therapy for all cancer types. For example, certain types of immunotherapy are now being considered for different tumor types. Talk to your oncologist about your available treatment options if you want to know if using a targeted therapy approach is right for you.
What Are the Benefits to Targeted Therapies?
The main benefit of targeted therapy is to specifically treat the cancer cells and spare normal cells. Ideally, this would lead to improved effectiveness and fewer side effects.
Generally speaking, chemotherapy and radiation have unfavorable side effects. Many patients using targeted therapies experience far fewer side effects and have a greater quality of life during and after treatment.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.