Course Content
Introduction to Colorectal Cancer
Learn about the causes, symptoms, risk factors, prevention, treatment, and management of colorectal cancer. By the end of this course, you will have a better understanding of colorectal cancer and how to prevent, detect, and manage it.
Not Just A Gut Feeling: Understanding Colorectal Cancer
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What are targeted therapies and immunotherapy for Colorectal Cancer?

Targeted therapies and immunotherapy are innovative approaches used in the treatment of colorectal cancer. They offer personalized treatment options by specifically targeting cancer cells or enhancing the body’s immune response against cancer. Let’s delve into the different types, their effects, and possible side effects:

What are targeted therapies?

Targeted therapies aim to block specific molecules or pathways that play a crucial role in cancer cell growth and survival. Several targeted therapies are used in colorectal cancer treatment, including:

Anti-EGFR antibodies. Drugs like cetuximab and panitumumab target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), inhibiting the signals that promote cancer cell growth.

Anti-VEGF antibodies. Bevacizumab is a drug that targets vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which helps form blood vessels that supply nutrients to tumors.

Targeted therapies can slow down or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They can shrink tumors, making them more manageable for surgical removal. They can also be used in combination with chemotherapy or as standalone treatments.

What are the possible side effects of targeted therapies?

While targeted therapies are designed to be more specific to cancer cells, they can still affect normal cells, leading to side effects such as:

  • Skin rash or acne-like eruptions.
  • Diarrhea.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fatigue.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Gastrointestinal perforation (rare).

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells more effectively. It involves various approaches, including immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Immunotherapy options for colorectal cancer include drugs like pembrolizumab and nivolumab block immune checkpoints such as PD-1 or PD-L1, which help regulate immune responses, enabling immune cells to recognize and attack cancer cells.

Immunotherapy can boost the immune response against cancer cells, lead to durable responses and prolonged disease control in some patients.

What are the possible side effects of immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy can cause unique side effects known as immune-related adverse events (irAEs) as the immune system attacks normal tissues. Side effects may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Skin rash or itching.
  • Diarrhea or colitis.
  • Pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs).
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
  • Endocrine dysfunction (e.g., thyroid abnormalities).
  • Rarely, severe or life-threatening immune-related complications.

It’s important to remember that the availability and specific usage of targeted therapies and immunotherapy may vary based on factors such as the stage of cancer, genetic profile, and individual patient characteristics. The decision to use these treatments is made by healthcare professionals who specialize in oncology.

Ongoing research and clinical trials continue to explore new targeted therapies and immunotherapy approaches, aiming to improve treatment outcomes and minimize side effects. Consultation with healthcare professionals is essential to discuss individual treatment options, potential benefits, and risks based on the specific situation.