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    Chemotherapy without side effects?

    New drugs that target the microbiological mechanisms that tumor cells use to grow may provide a more successful and gentle chemotherapy experience.

    Current chemotherapy agents target all fast growing cells. That means that hair, nail and other healthy tissue are just as much a target as the tumor cells. The hope is that the cancer will be more damaged by the treatments than the rest of the patient. Thankfully, this is usually the case, but there are instances where the damage to the heart and other organs is so severe that the treatments need to be discontinued.

    If specific cells could be targeted, the cytotoxic side effects that are associated with chemotherapy could be eliminated.

    Discoveries in tumor microbiology are creating these drug therapies based on targeting specific cells. Breakthroughs in the field of molecular biology have lead to pharmacological agents that target areas found only on the cancer cells. Drugs based on these findings are being investigated. They interfere with the 'normal' functions of tumor cells. Proliferation, angiogenesis and metastasis are the leading areas of vunerability being explored in the cancer cell.

    Proliferation can be interfered with by drugs that target the growth factor receptors and HER-2/neu receptors on cancer cells. This prevents the cells from continuing their abnormal growth patterns. In some cases the drugs prevent the drug from reproducing and eliminate the tumor. Many of these have been tested on animal models and in the lab and some are now entering clinical trials for humans. One, herceptin, which targets HER-2/neu receptors has been approved and has made a major impact on the success of breast cancer treatment.

    In short, the challenge to doctors and scientists is delivering chemo is balance. (Think of it as carpet bombing an entire town hoping that you hit the desired target.) That is, weighing the toxicity of chemo drugs while still allowing the patient to survive! Targeted chemotherapy is the next step in the future of cancer treatment that will produced less toxic drugs in the fight against the disease.


    Last updated May 2, 2017

    Elsewhere on the Web:

    Cancer.Net - Understanding Targeted Therapy

    Chemo without the side effects: Scientists look to gold, toad skin for answers


     

     

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