Our medical oncologists specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy. They will provide supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists. Nurses that are specially trained in the needs of cancer patients will work with medical oncologists to care for you before, during and after treatment.
Chemotherapy treatment, often referred to as “chemo,” is the use of drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Sometimes chemo is used by itself to treat cancer, but most of the time it is part of a treatment plan that includes surgery and/or radiation.
Some cancers, like prostate and breast, use hormones to grow. Hormonal therapy is also called hormone therapy, hormone treatment, or endocrine therapy, and is most often combined with other cancer treatments to slow or stop the growth of prostate or breast cancers.
Targeted therapy drugs are considered a special type of chemotherapy that targets cancer cells’ inner makeup, mostly leaving healthy cells unaffected. Although targeted therapy is sometimes used alone, it is usually used in conjunction with other cancer treatments. Side effects from targeted therapy drugs are different from chemo side effects.
Biological therapy uses living organisms, elements derived from living organisms, or lab-produced versions of those types of elements to treat cancer. Biological therapies that boost the immune system to fight cancer cells are called “immunotherapies” and do not target cancer cells directly. Antibodies, another type of biological therapy, do target cancer cells directly.
Immunotherapy is an emerging way of treating cancer that harnesses an individual’s own immune system to recognize, control and potentially cure cancers. It is a different approach from conventional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. The latter attack the disease itself, while immunotherapy aims to empower the immune system to eliminate it.
Immunotherapy comes in many forms – treatment vaccines, antibody therapies and drugs and can be received through an injection, a pill or capsule, a topical ointment or cream or catheter. The side effects of immunotherapy drugs are often times more manageable than those of traditional therapies. The Cancer Center also offers a number of immunotherapy clinical trials for various types of cancer.
Because of donor support, pioneering treatments such as immunotherapy, stereotactic radiotherapy, leading-edge clinical trials and other advances abound at the Cancer Center. Innovation is thriving, and we are continuously looking for opportunities to do more. We were excited to recently announce that philanthropist Art Favre made a $1 million gift to advance innovation at the Cancer Center. This commitment to leading-edge science will allow us to go even further in acquiring and developing the most innovative and effective cancer-fighting technologies and therapies.
For more information on immunotherapy, please call (225) 215-5950.