Ways to Treat Cancer

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Precision Medicine: This new field, also called personalized medicine, uses your genetic makeup and other things to find out the best treatment for your cancer. In the “one-size-fits-all” model, your doctor chooses the option that works best on most cancers like yours. Precision medicine helps take some of the guesswork out of the selection process. It isn’t used widely for all forms of the disease. Many people who get it are part of clinical trials.

Targeted Therapies

These are usually paired with other treatments. They’re strong medicine, like chemotherapy, but instead of killing all fast-growing cells, they home in on the parts of cancer cells that make them different from other cells. Targeted drugs do things like stop blood vessels from growing around cancer cells or turn off signals that tell cancer cells to grow. They can also tell your immune system to destroy them or change their proteins so they die.

Hormone Therapy

Also called endocrine therapy, it targets cancers that use hormones to grow. There are two kinds of this therapy: one that stops you from making hormones, and one that keeps hormones from working the way they should. You can either take them as pills or get them through a shot. Sometimes you may get surgery to remove an organ that makes hormones, like ovaries or testicles. Doctors use hormone therapy with other methods to shrink tumors before surgery or treatment or to kill cancer cells that have spread to other parts of your body. It can also lower the chances that your cancer will return.

Gene Therapy

This treatment uses a special carrier, usually a virus, to put RNA or DNA into your living cells. Your doctor will either remove some of your cells and put the genetic materials into them in a lab or give you the carrier directly. The changed cells then either kill cancer cells, slow their growth, or help healthy cells fight cancer better. Doctors don’t use this method widely yet, but several types of gene therapies are available for certain diseases.


This type of biological therapy, or biotherapy, uses your immune system to fight cancer. It either boosts your immune system or marks cancer cells so your immune system can find and destroy them more easily. You get it by mouth as a pill, into a vein as an IV, by rubbing cream into your skin, or through a catheter directly into your bladder.

Types of Immunotherapy

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that take the brakes off your immune system to help it find and attack cancer cells.

Cancer vaccines start an immune response against cancer cells so your body can better attack them. They can also prevent certain cancers.

Monoclonal antibodies are drugs made in a lab to work like your natural antibodies. They mark cancer cells as the ones your immune system should attack. They can also help chemotherapy and radiation go directly to cancer cells.

Adoptive Cell Transfer (ACT): This is another type of immunotherapy, but it also involves gene therapy. Doctors take immune cells from your blood and add genes to change them so they can better spot and kill cancer cells. Then they grow lots of these cells in a lab and put them back into your body. So far, the only kind of ACT approved by the FDA is called CAR T-cell therapy 🙂 🙂

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