NON-CHEMOTHERAPY CANCER TREATMENTS
Not every cancer is optimally treated with "traditional" chemotherapy. Many other types of treatments are available that may be even more effective depending on your type of cancer. Some different types of cancer treatments are described below:
Targeted therapies are medications that are created to block specific genes, proteins, or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. This type of treatment is the focus of much anticancer drug research. These types of medications work against the targeted cancer cells and are less harmful to normal cells that do not have the specific target. However, side effects of these medications vary widely depending on the particular target affected…
Example of Targeted Therapy
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a specific protein found on the surface of some cells. It normally helps these cells to grow and divide. Some lung cancers have too much EGFR, which tells cancer cells to grow and multiply out of control. Erlotinib (Tarceva®) is an oral targeted medication used in lung cancer. Tarceva can slow or block the signal from EGFR that tells cells to grow, leading to cancer cell death. Tarceva is also used in pancreatic cancer.
Hormones are a type of chemical substance naturally found in the body. They are manufatured by the endocrine system. Some cancers require hormones in the blood, which tell the cancer cells to grow uncontrollably. This includes certain types of breast, prostate, and uterine cancers. Therefore medications that lower the levels of the specific hormone or that prevent the body from using the hormone are effective treatments and can cause cancer cell death.
Example of Endocrine Therapy
Some breast cancers have specific proteins on their surfaces that attach to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These are known as ER-positive and PR-positive breast cancers. Tamoxifen is an anti-estrogen drug, which will temporarily block estrogen from attaching to the cancer cell and stop the signal that tells the ER-positive cancer cell to grow. If you have this type of breast cancer, anti-estrogen medication will be a large part of your treatment. It is possible that chemotherapy may not be necessary. We use state-of the-art tests, such as Oncotype DX®, to evaluate your need for chemotherapy.
The immune system helps to protect the body from infections and substances that it does not recognize. It will attack and destroy anything containing a "foreign" substance, such as bacteria. However cancer cells are difficult for the immune system to recognize and target. Cancer cells start from your own normal cells that have been altered and may not seem very foreign to the immune system. Cancer cells may also develop the ability to reduce or turn off the immune system defense. Immunotherapy medications use a person’s own immune system to fight the cancer cells. They may stimulate, boost, or train your own immune system to work better and harder when attacking cancer cells. Our practice has been involved in the development and approval process for a number of immunotherapies, giving us extensive experience in managing such treatments and their side effects. This type of therapy shows great promise in a many cancers and will likely be used more in the future.
Example of Immunotherapy
Normally your immune system uses specialized "T-cells" to attack abnormal cells. Some cancers cells have the ability to send a signal to the T-cells that makes them inactive and unable to attack the cancer. These cancer cells attach to a protein called the PD-1 receptor (programmed death receptor-1) on the outside of the T-cell. Nivolumab (Opdivo®) is a medication that blocks the PD-1 on the T-cell, so that the cancer cells cannot signal and stop the T-cell from working properly. Nivolumab is currently used in treating melanoma and lung cancer.