Targeted therapies have revolutionized the treatment landscape for many types of blood cancers by specifically targeting cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells. Here’s an overview of targeted therapies used in the treatment of blood cancer:

What are Targeted Therapies?

  • Precision Treatment: Targeted therapies are designed to interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer growth and progression. These molecules can include proteins, genes, or other cellular components that are crucial for cancer cell survival and proliferation.
  • Different from Chemotherapy: Unlike chemotherapy, which affects all rapidly dividing cells (both cancerous and healthy), targeted therapies are more selective in their action, potentially leading to fewer side effects.

Types of Targeted Therapies for Blood Cancer

  1. Monoclonal Antibodies:
    • Mechanism: Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made antibodies that can target specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells, marking them for destruction by the immune system or blocking their growth signals.
    • Examples: Rituximab, used in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and Daratumumab, used in multiple myeloma.
  2. Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs):
    • Mechanism: TKIs block specific enzymes (tyrosine kinases) that are involved in signaling pathways promoting cancer cell growth.
    • Examples: Imatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), Dasatinib for CML and some types of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and Ibrutinib for various types of lymphomas and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
  3. Proteasome Inhibitors:
    • Mechanism: Proteasome inhibitors block the action of proteasomes, which are structures within cells that break down proteins. This disruption can lead to cell death in cancer cells.
    • Examples: Bortezomib and Carfilzomib, used primarily in the treatment of multiple myeloma.
  4. Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) Inhibitors:
    • Mechanism: HDAC inhibitors alter the way genes are expressed in cancer cells, potentially slowing their growth or causing them to die.
    • Example: Panobinostat, used in combination therapy for multiple myeloma.
  5. Immunomodulatory Drugs (IMiDs):
    • Mechanism: IMiDs enhance the immune system’s ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells. They also have direct effects on cancer cells, inducing cell cycle arrest and cell death.
    • Examples: Thalidomide, Lenalidomide, and Pomalidomide, used extensively in multiple myeloma and some lymphomas.

Benefits of Targeted Therapies

  • Specificity: Targeted therapies focus on cancer cells with particular genetic mutations or characteristics, potentially enhancing treatment efficacy.
  • Reduced Side Effects: Compared to traditional chemotherapy, targeted therapies often cause fewer and less severe side effects because they spare healthy cells.
  • Personalized Treatment: Genetic testing of cancer cells can identify specific mutations that may respond to targeted therapies, allowing for personalized treatment approaches.

Considerations and Challenges

  • Resistance: Cancer cells can develop resistance to targeted therapies over time, requiring changes in treatment or combination therapies to maintain effectiveness.
  • Cost: Some targeted therapies can be costly, and access may vary depending on healthcare systems and insurance coverage.
  • Clinical Trials: Ongoing research and clinical trials continue to explore new targeted therapies and combinations, offering hope for improved outcomes and expanded treatment options.


Targeted therapies represent a significant advancement in the treatment of blood cancers, providing more effective and less toxic alternatives to traditional chemotherapy for many patients. Their ability to specifically target cancer cells based on genetic and molecular characteristics underscores the importance of personalized medicine in oncology. As research progresses, the role of targeted therapies is expected to grow, further enhancing treatment outcomes and quality of life for individuals living with blood cancers. Always consult with your healthcare team to understand the potential benefits and considerations of targeted therapies based on your specific diagnosis and treatment goals.

By Sue