Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy
and Targeted Molecular Therapy
Medical oncology and hematology focus on treating cancer with drugs and other agents, which travel throughout your body's entire system to destroy cancer cells and help the body defend itself. Medical oncology is considered "systemic treatment" as opposed to radiation oncology, which focuses treatment on a specific part of the body.
Chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery. Most chemotherapy drugs are administered by intravenous infusion over minutes to several hours. Other types of chemotherapy are administered by injection or in pill form. The duration of treatment depends on the type of the cancer and the treatment regimen. Chemotherapy is given in cycles, allowing a rest period between treatments.
Recently, tremendous strides have been made in the management of side effects associated with chemotherapy. A variety of options now exist to eliminate or minimize chemotherapy-induced side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, temporary hair loss, and/or weight changes. Each person has unique responses to treatment, so Alta Bates Summit doctors and staff will work with you to prevent and minimize your side effects. You will also be taught how to manage side effects using nutritional strategies, complementary therapies and prescribed medications
Like chemotherapy, hormone therapy also called "endocrine-based therapy" is a systemic treatment. But unlike chemotherapy, endocrine-based therapy was developed to interfere with certain natural body chemicals hormones which may stimulate cancer growth. Cancer types which characteristically may be sensitive to hormones include breast, prostate, ovarian, and endometrial cancers. To slow or prevent the growth of these sensitive cancer cells, hormone therapy drugs are chemically structured to interfere with the growth of such types of cancer, for example by decreasing the amount of hormone that the body produces or by blocking its action on the cancer cells directly.
Where chemotherapy agents may affect many other general cell types such as white blood cells, hormonal agents are more limited in their effects. They are the first type of systemic treatment directed at a specific target the hormone-dependent cancer cell and may be referred to as "targeted therapy." Their benefits and their side effects relate only to the natural effects of the hormone itself and the hormone-cancer cell interaction. For that reason, the typical side effects seen with chemotherapy are not present with hormone or endocrine-based therapies. Hormone therapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy. It is rarely used simultaneously, but is often used following chemotherapy.
Targeted or Molecular Therapy
Normal cell growth and division are mostly under the control of a network of chemical and molecular signals that give instructions to cells. When this signaling process is disrupted, cells no longer grow, divide, or die normally when they should. Scientific discoveries related to these biochemical signals and their targets have resulted in numerous advances in the treatment of cancer. Cancer therapy that is directed to a specific target or signaling pathway is commonly called "targeted therapy" or "molecular therapy."
Targeted cancer therapies use drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with cancer cell growth and division in different ways and at various points during the development, growth, and spread of cancer. By focusing on molecular and cellular changes that are specific to cancer, targeted cancer therapies provide effective treatment for cancer while sparing healthy tissues.
The medical oncologists at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center use the most current FDA-approved therapies and are committed to using the most recent discoveries in cancer therapies on behalf of their patients.
To select a medical oncologist who treats cancer, visit our Breast Cancer Specialists web page.