Traditional chemotherapy attacks and kills cancer cells as well as normal cells. It cannot distinguish between the two, so normal, healthy cells are destroyed. This is why there are so many side effects with chemotherapy. Targeted therapy uses drugs to identify and attack specific cancer cells without causing as much harm to normal cells and may be used alone or in conjunction with traditional chemotherapy. When used with chemotherapy, targeted therapy makes the cancer cells use the chemotherapy drugs more efficiently so that a greater number of cancer cells are killed.
Targeted therapy can be given as an IV infusion or as an oral pill.
Biological therapy is referred to by many terms, including immunologic therapy, immunotherapy, or biotherapy. Biological therapy is a type of treatment that uses the body’s immune system to facilitate the killing of cancer cells. Types of biological therapy include interferon, interleukin, monoclonal antibodies, colony stimulating factors (cytokines), and vaccines.
Hormones are naturally occurring substances in the body that stimulate the growth of hormone sensitive tissues, such as the breast or prostate gland. When cancer arises in breast or prostate tissue, its growth and spread may be caused by the body’s own hormones. Therefore, drugs that block hormone production or change the way hormones work are ways of fighting cancer. Sometimes this can also be achieved by removing organs responsible for the production/secretion of hormones such as removal of the ovaries or testes. Hormone therapy, similar to chemotherapy, is a systemic treatment in that it may affect cancer cells throughout the body.