Targeted therapy for cervical cancer
Targeted therapy is sometimes used to treat cervical cancer. It uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on cancer cells or inside 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 and limit harm to normal cells. Targeted therapy may also be called molecular targeted therapy.
You may have targeted therapy to treat cervical cancer that:
- is persistent or comes back after treatment
- has spread to other parts of the body
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 cervical cancer
The most common targeted therapy drug used to treat cervical cancer is bevacizumab (Avastin).
Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is one of the main proteins that help tumours build a blood supply, which they need to grow larger. Bevacizumab attaches to VEGF so the tumour can’t use it to build a blood supply and grow.
Bevacizumab also improves the effects of chemotherapy by delivering these drugs directly to the tumour. Bevacizumab may sometimes be used alone or with chemotherapy. Bevacizumab is given by a needle in a vein (intravenously).
Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for cervical cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have few or none at all.
Targeted therapy attacks cancer cells but doesn’t usually damage healthy cells, so there are usually fewer and less severe side effects than with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage healthy cells along with cancer cells.
If you develop side effects, they can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after targeted therapy. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after targeted therapy. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated, but some side effects may last a long time or become permanent.
Side effects of targeted therapy will depend mainly on the type of drug or combination of drugs, the dose and your overall health. Bevacizumab may cause these side effects:
- flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, mild joint or muscle pain
- loss of appetite
- sore mouth
- high blood pressure
- skin problems
- blood clots
Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from targeted therapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.
Information about specific cancer drugs
Details on specific drugs change regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.
Questions to ask about targeted therapy
What’s the lifetime risk of getting cancer?
The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report shows about half of Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.