Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beyond chemotherapy

It's important to know that there are options beyond chemotherapy: scientific, medically powerful options. For example, these are the non-chemotherapeutic agents are known as "targeted" agents, and include drugs such as Gleevec for leukemia, or Iressa for lung cancer, and Herceptin for breast cancer. Because these medications strike particular kinds of cancer cells with high precision, they leave fewer side effects and can be enormously effective at eradicating cancer cells. They are no substitute for adjuvant chemotherapy, but they do play a great role nowadays in second line defense or, in some cases, first line therapy if the clinical trial data is very good. Whether or not your regimen will include these targeted therapies prior to chemotherapy depends on your particular condition, and what the gold standard line of care indicates. For example, Erbitux for colon cancer patients is only indicated for those who have stopped responding to the first line chemotherapies, such as 5-FU (5-fluorouracil).
The story is actually even more complicated: not all patients will respond to a targeted therapy, because the genetic background of cancers can be very different and as a result, may or may not respond to the targeted therapy. Sometimes a genetic test on the primary or secondary tumor can reveal this information. You should consult a well-informed oncologist to make these technically challenging decisions.

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