Author: A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. January 2018.
This article was supported by an educational grant from Roche New Zealand, distributors of Cotellic™ in New Zealand. Sponsorship does not influence content.
Targeted cancer therapies are drugs used to treat certain malignant tumours by blocking the action of certain molecular targets such as genes and proteins. They are classified as small molecules or monoclonal antibodies.
They are also called precision medicines.
Targeted cancer therapies interact with a target molecule to prevent tumour cells proliferating.
They are classified as:
Targeted therapies are currently used in dermatology for patients with advanced cancers. They are also in clinical trials as adjuvant therapy (supplementary treatment given to people who are in remission from their cancer but are at high risk of relapse in the future).
Several targeted therapies are marketed in dermatology to treat advanced skin cancers, and others are in development.
Several products are marketed to treat unresectable metastatic melanoma.
Several products are being investigated to treat advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Targeted treatments used in refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma are based on the retinoid pathway.
Rituximab targets the CD20 antigen found on B lymphocytes.
Imatinib targets BCR-ABL fusion protein.
See individual drug topics for more details.
The efficacy of targeted therapies is variable. They may lose their efficacy over time, having been initially successful at reducing tumour growth and in some cases leading to complete remission.
See individual drug topics.
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