Esophageal cancer

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Targeted therapy for esophageal cancer

Targeted therapy is sometimes used to treat esophageal cancer. It uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on the surface of cancer cells. These molecules help send signals that tell cells to grow or divide. By targeting these molecules, the drugs stop the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting harm to normal cells. Targeted therapy may also be called molecular targeted therapy.

Some esophageal cancers make too much human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) protein. These tumours are described as HER2 positive. Targeted therapy may be used to treat HER2-positive adenocarcinoma of the esophagus that has spread to distant parts of the body (called metastatic cancer).

Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of targeted therapy. You may also receive other treatments.

Targeted therapy drugs commonly used for esophageal cancer

The targeted drug used to treat esophageal cancer is trastuzumab (Herceptin). Trastuzumab is given by a needle in a vein (intravenous, or IV) usually once every 3 weeks along with chemotherapy.

The most common drug combinations used to treat HER2-positive locally advanced or metastatic adenocarcinoma of the esophagus are:

  • trastuzumab, cisplatin (Platinol AQ) and 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU)
  • trastuzumab, cisplatin and capecitabine (Xeloda)

Information about specific cancer drugs

Details on specific drugs change quite regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.

Questions to ask about targeted therapy

Find out more about targeted therapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about targeted therapy.

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Great progress has been made

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Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.

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