Targeted therapy – hope or hype?

Image: dreamstime.com

Image: dreamstime.com

With all the excitement surrounding targeted cancer drugs, what’s the reality of these “magic bullets”? This is the question posed by Laura Beil at Cure Today.

Around a decade ago, targeted therapy rose to stardom on the hope of providing powerful cancer treatment with fewer side effects than chemotherapy. It made the cover of Time magazine in 2001, and experts—those who normally talk in cautious terms—started using words like miracle.

So what is it? In its simplest sense, a targeted therapy drug is developed from scratch with the target in mind. The idea is that scientists discover a molecule critical to a tumor’s operation, but not important to normal cells, and design a medicine to short circuit that molecule. It’s kind of like stopping a car by just disconnecting the spark plugs from the engine. But the excitement also comes from what targeted therapy doesn’t do. By zeroing in on genetic flaws unique to a tumor, targeted therapy has the potential to leave normal tissue unscathed. One early report called it “a smart bomb pill.”

 But after years of high expectations, reflection, and plenty of sticker shock, targeted therapy met reality. In many ways, the love affair with targeted therapy has been like any other romance. At first sight, it was new and exciting. Lots of people became starry-eyed over the possibilities. But as time passed, researchers began to see that targeted therapy was more complex and flawed than everyone first thought. The love isn’t gone, just settled.

Want to read more? Click here for the full article at Cure Today