Other types of treatment for cancer

Chemotherapy drugs remain an important part of treatment for most types of cancer. However, many newer cancer drugs target processes that are specific to cancer cells but not normal cells, and therefore have different side effects. They are sometimes used alone but are usually given in combination with traditional chemotherapy.

Hormone therapy

These treatments change the amount of hormones (natural chemicals that circulate in the bloodstream and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs) in the body. Hormone therapy helps because several types of cancer can only grow and spread when certain hormones are present. Hormone therapy does not work for all types of cancer, but can be useful in hormone sensitive or hormone dependant cancers such as breast, prostate, ovarian or kidney.

Targeted therapy

These treatments target specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. As a result, this type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to normal cells. Targeted therapy can be used in some melanoma patients.

Immunotherapy

The immune system is responsible for seeing foreign items in the body and attacking them. The immune response can destroy anything containing a foreign substance, such as germs or cancer cells. However, sometimes the immune system doesn’t see the cancer cells as foreign because the cells aren’t different enough from normal cells. Sometimes the immune system recognizes the cancer cells, but the response might not be strong enough to destroy the cancer. Cancer cells themselves can also give off substances that keep the immune system in check. To overcome this, researchers have found ways to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and strengthen its response so that it will destroy them.

Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body's natural defences to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to bolster, target, or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy can be used to treat cancers such as melanoma.