It’s exciting to know that new approaches to cancer treatment can recognize specific characteristics in cancer cells to find and destroy just those cells. This targeted approach to destroying cancer is very different than the “systemic” forms of cancer treatment that have been used traditionally, which destroy rapidly dividing cells whether they are cancerous or healthy.
How Targeted Therapies Work
There are two main types of targeted therapies that work differently to stop cancer growth:
Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies
- Monoclonal antibodies
- Small molecule inhibitors
Monoclonal antibodies (MABs or MoAbs) are proteins created in the laboratory that bind to substances on the surface of cancer cells. Once a monoclonal antibody attaches to a protein on the cell’s surface, the cancer cells may be killed.
Small Molecule Inhibitors
Unlike monoclonal antibodies that work outside the cell, small molecule inhibitors work inside the cell. They block signals that tell the cell to divide and grow, thereby stopping cancer cells from dividing and creating tumors.
When both small molecule inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies are available to treat the same disease, doctors determine which type of treatment is best to use. Small molecules can often be taken orally (through the mouth), rather than intravenously.