Understanding Targeted Therapy for Colorectal Cancer

Posted on February 5th, 2009 by

Targeted therapies are anticancer drugs that are designed to treat cancer cells while minimizing damage to normal, healthy cells. These drugs, which may be used in the treatment of colorectal cancer, interfere with specific pathways involved in cancer cell growth or survival. Some targeted therapies block growth signals from reaching cancer cells; others reduce the blood supply to cancer cells; and still others stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cell. Depending on the specific “target,” targeted therapies may slow cancer cell growth or increase cancer cell death.

Targeted therapies may be used in combination with other cancer treatments such as conventional chemotherapy.

Advances in science and technology have led to the development of several different types of targeted therapies, which target cancer through different mechanisms. These include targeted therapy for colorectal cancer.

Targeted Therapy for Colorectal Cancer

Targeted therapies are playing an important role in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (colorectal cancer that has spread to distant sites in the body, such as the liver or lungs). The two types of targeted therapy that are currently being used for colorectal cancer are EGFR inhibitors (a type of tyrosine kinase inhibitor) and anti-angiogenic drugs.

Vectibix™ (panitumumab) is a monoclonal antibody that binds to and blocks EGFR. In a study of patients with EGFR-expressing metastatic colorectal cancer that had progressed during or after standard chemotherapy, patients who were treated with Vectibix survived longer without cancer progression than patients who were not treated with Vectibix.[1]

Benefits of Targeted Therapy

By focusing their effects on specific characteristics of cancer cells, targeted therapies provide effective cancer treatment with fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy. Because targeted therapies are generally well tolerated, they can often be combined with other cancer therapies such as chemotherapy in order to improve treatment effectiveness.

Risks of Targeted Therapy

Though targeted therapies tend to cause less damage to normal cells than conventional chemotherapy or radiation therapy, there are some potential side effects. In the case of EGFR inhibitors, mild or moderate side effects involving the skin are commonly reported. Other side effects have been reported as well. Talk with your doctor or read the prescribing information for more complete information about potential side effects.

Learn Whether Targeted Therapy Is Right for You

Determining whether a specific targeted therapy is appropriate for your cancer requires consideration of many factors, including the type, stage, and previous treatment. In addition, the specific characteristics of your cancer may need to be evaluated. Vectibix, for example, is effective against colorectal cancers that express EGFR. Tests can be performed in order to determine whether your cancer expresses EGFR.


[1] Peeters M, van Cutsem E, Siena S et al. A Phase 3, Multicenter, Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) of Panitumumab Plus Best Supportive Care (BSC) vs BSC Alone in Patients (pts) with Metastatic Colorectal Cancer (mCRC). Presented at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, April 1-5, 2006, Washington DC. Abstract CP-1.

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Tags: Colon Cancer

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