Stomach Cancer: Targeted Therapy

March 21, 2017

Stomach Cancer: Targeted Therapy

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy uses medicines that target specific parts of certain types of cancer cells. They interfere with a cancer's ability to grow and survive. The therapies are specific to each person's cancer. Your cancer cells must be tested before targeted therapy is used. This is so the right medicine can be used. For instance, some people have HER2-positive stomach cancer. This means the cancer cells have too much HER2 protein. A medicine that targets the HER2 protein may work on this type of stomach cancer. But you may need a different medicine to treat stomach cancer cells that don't have a lot of HER2.

When might targeted therapy be used for stomach cancer?

Targeted therapy may be used with chemotherapy for certain types of stomach cancer. It may also be used if other treatments stop working.

How is targeted therapy given for stomach cancer?

Most people get targeted therapy as outpatients at hospitals or clinics. You likely won’t need to stay overnight. The targeted therapy medicines used to treat stomach cancer are given in a vein through an intravenous (IV) line.

What types of targeted therapy are used to treat stomach cancer?

  • Trastuzumab. This medicineis used to treat advanced stomach cancers that are HER-2 positive.

  • Ramucirumab. This medicine may be used to treat any type of stomach cancer if other treatments aren't working. It works by stopping the cancer cells from getting the new blood vessels they need to grow and spread.

What are common side effects of targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy can cause side effects. The side effects depend on the type of medicine you receive. They tend to be less severe than side effects from chemotherapy. Talk with your healthcare providers about what to expect. Side effects may occur in the days or weeks while you’re getting targeted therapy. Once your treatment has ended, the side effects normally go away. Side effects may include:

  • Tiredness and weakness

  • Fever and chills

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Cough

  • Diarrhea

Rare side effects include:

  • Heart damage

  • Bleeding

  • Blood clots

  • Healing problems

Talk with your healthcare providers about any side effects you have. They may be able to help lessen them. Most side effects go away after treatment ends.

Working with your healthcare provider

It's important to know which medicines you're taking. Write your medicines down, and ask your health care team how they work and what side effects they might have.

Talk with your healthcare providers about what signs to look for and when to call them. Make sure you know what number to call with questions. Is there a different number for evenings and weekends?

It may be helpful to keep a diary of your side effects. Write down physical, thinking, and emotional changes. A written list will make it easier for you to remember your questions when you go to your appointments. It will also make it easier for you to work with your healthcare team to make a plan to manage your side effects.



March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Gersten, Todd, MD,Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS