The targeted therapies currently available work in one of two ways. They either attack specific proteins on the cancer cells, or they disrupt a specific function that the cancer cell needs in order to grow and spread. By being targeted in their effects, these drugs may leave normal cells alone. But they sometimes have adverse effects on healthy cells, too.
Not everyone will get the same drugs or receive them the same way. Before treatment starts, talk with your doctor about your treatment and understand what to expect. The actual treatment the doctor prescribes will be based on an evaluation of these factors:
The stage of the cancer
Traits of your cancer, such as specific proteins on the cancer cell surface
Your general health
Concerns you have about side effects
What treatments you have had before (if any)
After evaluating your situation, the doctor will choose a drug or a combination of drugs for you to take. The doctor will decide how long to give the drugs. Often you receive them in an outpatient area, clinic, or doctor’s office. But you may receive them in the hospital. As with chemotherapy, most of the targeted agents now available are given intravenously, although some are taken as a pill. You also receive them over a period of time that is similar to the chemotherapy schedule. Some targeted drugs are given along with chemotherapy, while others are given on their own.
Several targeted drugs are now used for colorectal cancer: