Targeted therapies

Unlike “classic” chemotherapies, targeted therapies consist, as their name suggests, in targeting a particularity of the cancerous cell. Nowadays, some 30 targeted therapies are available.

What are targeted therapies?

Targeted therapies have revolutionised anti-cancer treatment. They consist of targeting a particular part of the cancerous cell and blocking that target, which is involved in the information chain responsible for cell proliferation. The cancerous cell can thus no longer replicate itself. These therapies are therefore based on the molecular profile of the tumour and no longer on its location: the same therapy can function for cancers on different organs if they carry the same molecular particularity. To find out, it is necessary to analyse the DNA of the cancerous cell and go in search of anomalies for which a targeted therapy may serve. They are often prescribed in addition to chemotherapy.

Today, some 30 targeted therapies exist, divided into several families: the antibodies, which attack a specific target at the surface of the cell; the inhibitors, which instead enter the cell to block a reproduction phase; and in 2013 another type, based on immune checkpoint inhibitors, underwent rapid development. The researchers realised that the cancerous cells sometimes had the power to lower the immune defences that could have flushed them from the organism. Some therapies now make it possible to block the lymphocyte receptors sensitive to cancerous attacks: they are not eliminated, and can continue to exterminate the cancerous cells. The treatment thus helps the organism to defend itself against cancer. These techniques are now producing promising results in the treatment of cancers which usually have a poor prognosis, such as some lung and bladder cancers.


Treatment at Institut Curie

  • Clinical research is very active, both for classic chemotherapy and for targeted therapies, which are now thriving. Institut Curie participates actively in these trials. In 2012, it launched Shiva, an innovative clinical trial in which the therapeutic choice is based entirely on the tumour’s molecular profile, regardless of location. The first phase of the trial showed that, thanks to the analysis platforms, it was possible to produce the genetic map of the patients’ tumour in less than four weeks in order to provide personalised treatment.
  • In 2014, Institut Curie also introduced the multidisciplinary molecular consultation meeting (RCP). The objective is to offer patients with metastatic or rare cancers, or those resistant to standard treatments, the most appropriate targeted therapies.