Targeted therapies are drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer. Sometimes called "molecularly targeted therapies," "precision medicines," or molecularly targeted drugs," targeted therapies work by interfering with specific molecules or “molecular targets” that are involved with the progression, growth, and spread of cancer. Per the American Cancer Society, “researchers have learned more about the changes in cells that cause cancer,” so “they have developed newer drugs that target these changes.”
One of the most prominent targeted therapy drugs for cancer, specifically for rare and difficult-to-treat cancers, is Sunitinib Malate (Sutent). The drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of advanced kidney cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, and advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET). However, researchers have studied the therapy on many other types of cancer, including malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Other new drugs target mesothelin—a protein found in high levels in mesothelioma cells. The drug anti-mesothelin immunotoxin (SS1P) is being studied by Roche in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), while amatuximab (MORAb-009) has received orphan drug designation for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Amatuximab studies are ongoing and are being conducted by Morphotek, also in collaboration with NCI.
Per the National Cancer Institute, “many targeted cancer therapies have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific types of cancer.” Others are being studied in clinical trials, and many more are in preclinical testing.
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