NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, Version 1.2017
For example, the cycles can be 14, 21, or 28 days
long. These cycles, including days of rest, giving the
body a chance to heal in between treatments.
The immune system usually does a pretty good
job of defending your body against germs, viruses,
and parasites (as well as the occasional grain of
pollen). In theory, it should recognize cancer cells
as abnormal and attack them in the same way. But
cancer cells have ways of getting around the immune
Immunotherapies are designed to boost immune
activity. They help the immune system find and
attack cancer cells. Many immunotherapies are now
available and others are being studied to find new
ways to fight cancer using our immune system. Here
are a few examples of commonly used therapies:
(for example, interleukins or
interferons) boosts the activity of normal
proteins that control our immune system’s
response to cancer.
(for example, ipilimumab or rituximab) are
man-made types of proteins that attach to
the surface of cancer cells (kind of like a key
fitting into a lock). Once MABs link up with the
cancer cell, other immune cells are able to
recognize and attack the cancer.
(for example, Sipuleucel-T)
act in the same way as vaccines do against
the flu or chicken pox. They teach the immune
system to recognize cancer cells so the
immune system can defend itself against the
Unlike chemotherapies, which go after just about
any fast-dividing cell, targeted therapies seek out
how cancer cells grow, divide, and move in the body.
Targeted therapies are usually grouped on the basis
of what they do or the part of the cell they target.
(for example, tamoxifen
or anastrozole) block the making or the
activity of estrogen. This is a hormone that
some cancers of the breast and uterus need
(for example, trastuzumab or
erlotinib) block specific enzymes and growth
factors that cancer cells need to grow and
spread. These drugs may also be called
small-molecule drugs or signal transduction
bortezomib or pralatrexate) change parts of
the cancer cell that control survival and death,
causing the cell to kill itself. Apoptosis is
natural cell death.
bevacizumab or sunitinib) target growth
factors that allow cancer cells to build new
blood vessels. This cuts off the tumor’s blood
supply and basically starves it to death.
ibritumomab tiuxetan) are a combination of
a MAB and a toxin or radioactive substance
(radiopharmaceutical) that enters and kills the
cell after the MAB latches on.
Because these drugs zero in on molecular targets
found mostly in cancer cells, targeted therapies are
less likely to damage healthy cells and cause side
Understanding your treatment options
What are systemic treatments?