What are the Current Cancer Drug Therapies

Dr. Sunil Verma, MD, MSEd, FRCPC, Oncologist, discusses current cancer drug therapies.

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Dr. Sunil Verma, MD, MSEd, FRCPC, Oncologist, discusses current cancer drug therapies.
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Video transcript

So the basics of cancer treatment generally involve surgery, radiation, and what we call drug treatment. Surgery is used for local management. And by local management we mean that there is a problem that, “Is this something that could be removed?”

And in some cancers, if we remove that, that’s it; that’s the only treatment that the patient may need because they do quite well with surgery alone.

Radiation also is a type of local treatment where the radiation is given to the particular area of concern. Sometimes it can be given for patients who have early stage disease by blasting those cells by using radiation treatment.

And that may be the only treatment the patient may need. And at other times, when the patient has advanced cancer and the cancer is spread, radiation is used to control that specific area and that specific symptom.

And that can really give patients symptomatic relief and give them significant relief, especially when we’re dealing with cancer that may have spread to the bone, for instance, and giving them pain relief by giving radiation treatment to the bone.

So both surgery and radiation are very effective local treatments that can provide relief, and in some cases cure, because of their local effective treatment.

With respect to drug treatment, we have a number of drug treatment that we can use for patients with cancer, depending on the type of cancer that they have. The general classification of these treatments may include chemotherapy, or may included targeted treatment.

Chemotherapy, by its nature, is targeting rapidly dividing cells. And when it targets rapidly dividing cells, which include cancer cells, it’s effective in controlling it, but it can also cause a lot of damage to the normal tissue because there’s a lot of normal, healthy cells that are also rapidly dividing, such as our hair cells, cells in our stomach, cells in our bones.

And that can lead to a lot of side effects that we see with chemotherapy, such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting, sometimes risk of infection.

So there’s a strong movement in cancer treatment to go towards targeted therapies. And by targeted treatment, what we want to focus on is targeting the specific driver of the cancer cell so that we can specifically hit that cancer cell while we spare the normal, healthy cells from side effects.

And there’s a strong movement to where it’s dropping these targeted therapies that can hopefully give patients strong benefit, and immediate benefit, without giving them too many side effects.

Presenter: Dr. Sunil Verma, Oncologist, Calgary, AB

Local Practitioners: Oncologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.