New Cancer Treatment: Molecularly Targeted Therapy


Cancer drugs are designed to attack and kill cancer cells, but poisonous as they are, they also harm normal healthy cells that can produce adverse side effects for the cancer patients. Patients experience these side effects in the appearance of their skin and hair fall. They start to look weak in stature. Especially those patients who are under heavier doses. However, now researchers may have come with a breakthrough in cancer treatment that can deduct all these mishaps.

The therapy thus comes forth is known as Molecularly Targeted Therapy, in which drugs are formulated at a molecular level, built specifically to harm and slay only cancer cells. Their structure is made in a way that can recognize particular molecules specific to different kinds of cancers.

The model drug that gives the prospect of this theory is Glivec (also called STI571). Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) can be fought with this model drug (CML is a condition in which white blood cells overproduce excessively). These drugs are now being called as “designer drugs”.

President-Elect, Paul A. Bunn Jr., of American Society of Clinical Oncology terms this development as very important and most effective as the drug is specifically designed for the target cells. Dr. Brian Druker, the main researcher behind this drug, further mentions that this drug pertains to the critical abnormalities that propel various kind of cancers and if these abnormalities are identified clearly, the specific drugs, such as STI571, can be designed for every kind of cancer.

These designer drugs have a shortcoming in that they can be used within a limited spectrum, as it is formulated specifically for special types of molecules related to the cancer. For example, so far, STI571 has been found to fight against gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), apart from CML. The enzyme targeted in GIST is similar to that of CML, hence the drug worked against both.

Due to these positive clinical results portrayed by Glivec in treating CML, it is being reviewed by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and will be made available in few months.

This discovery can be a head-turning change in the treatment of cancer and cancel out as many side effects of cancer drugs as possible!