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Targeted Therapies for Colorectal Cancer

Because chemotherapy drugs must be given systemically and can thus harm healthy as well as cancer cells, they tend to cause a wide variety of side effects and are not very specific. More recently, researchers have developed targeted therapies or biologic agents. These have been developed in the hope of stopping tumor growth while sparing normal healthy cells and body functions.

These new therapies have been developed to target specific characteristics such as the tumor blood supply or overexpression of receptors of signaling proteins. Two targets that have been identified to use with metastatic colorectal cancer are epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) .

Although these new therapies are "targeted" it does not mean there are NO side effects. They may have fewer side effects and fewer severe side effects than chemotherapy. For instance patients may experience some of the following side effects: nosebleeds, hypertension (high blood pressure), proteinuria (too much protein in the urine). Additional side effects might include weakness, pain, diarrhea, rash and leukopenia (a reduced white blood cell count).

Several of these new targeted therapies include:

These new targeted therapies are just one potential option for colorectal cancer. Your physician will discuss with you whether you will have just one therapy (like surgery) or a combination of therapies. But, it is helpful to know there a new therapies being developed every day.

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