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Target Therapy vs. Traditional Chemo: January 23, 2011

When it comes to treating cancer, oncologists often have to choose between targeted therapy and traditional chemotherapy. “It’s important to realize that this is very individual. It depends on their particular condition, their particular diagnosis, etc,” says Dr. Frank Rodriguez, a medical oncologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

Targeted therapy is designed to stop potential problem cells from reproducing and forming tumors. While traditional chemotherapy can destroy both cancerous and non-cancerous cells, certain cancers may cater to one therapy over the other, but in some instances, both might be required. “For example, pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is traditionally a very difficult disease to treat but the best option now is a combination of traditional chemotherapy plus the new addition of a targeted therapy, a pill called Tarceva,” explains Dr. Rodriguez.

This idea of using both therapies is still evolving. “We’re trying to improve on that by doing clinical trials and we currently have a clinical trial looking specifically at pancreatic cancer combining traditional chemotherapy with a new targeted therapy.”

Combining both target therapy and chemotherapy could lead to improved treatments for other cancers. “We’re combining a pill that is approved in myeloma and multiple myeloma but we know it has multiple functions. So, while it is targeted, it may not be targeted to a particular type of cell in a particular type of cancer, but rather it’s targeted to a particular type of abnormality which may be shared by several cancers.”

Your personal physician will look at the stage of cancer, the size of the tumor and physical limitations to determine which therapy might be right for you.