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What to Know About Targeted Therapy for Colorectal Cancer

You may receive targeted therapy to treat colorectal cancer. This type of therapy uses drugs that target specific proteins or cell functions that help cancer grow. The drugs are most often given along with chemotherapy, although some may also be used by themselves, if chemotherapy is no longer working. The goal of targeted therapy is to prevent the cancer from growing. Another goal is to help the chemotherapy get inside the tumor. If it does, the drug has a better chance to work well.

Like chemotherapy, these medicines work throughout the body. Because they mainly target cancer cells, the side effects are often different (and less severe) than those from chemotherapy drugs.

Right now, targeted therapy is used to help treat cancers that have spread beyond the walls of the colon or rectum. It may also be used to treat cancer that comes back after treatment. As with chemotherapy, a medical oncologist treats you with targeted therapy. Most of these drugs are given intravenously through a small needle that has been put into a vein and is dripped slowly into the vein over several hours. Some newer targeted drugs may be taken as a pill.