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Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies are becoming more and more important in the treatment of cancer. Much of today's cancer research is devoted to developing these treatments. Targeted therapies are given intravenously or by pill so the medication circulates throughout the body. But unlike chemotherapy, these treatments are designed to attack a specific protein or pathway that is unique to how an individual cancer grows and spreads. Testing performed on a patient's biopsy specimen identifies the protein and/or pathways. Biopsy material is archived for many years. As these treatments become more available, previous biopsy specimens can be retrieved from storage. Some targeted treatments are given in combination with chemotherapy.

Targeted therapies often have a different set of side effects compared to chemotherapy. They don't cause hair loss, but mild nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes and changes in liver function and blood counts can occur and require monitoring.