Finding a treatment that selectively targets cancer cells without affecting normal cells is the goal of all cancer treatment. Unfortunately that is a tough task because cancer cells formed from normal cells, therefore targeting normal cellular machinery, as is done with antimicrobial drugs, cannot be done in this case. Scientists have to determine what makes the cancer cell different from the normal cell and then design agents that can selectively target those pathways.
As we have seen with the Hallmarks of cancer, there are unique qualities to tumor cells that can be targeted. Every Hallmark of Cancer is currently being studied as a potential area for interception by pharmaceutical agents. Once a good candidate targeted drug is available, the patient’s physician will need to know if their patient has the biomarker indicating they will respond to that therapy. The laboratory will be used to determine the presence or absence of these biomarkers.
We are living in an age where personalized medicine is being used every day to treat cancer patients. Unfortunately, there are still many more biomarkers than there are targeted drugs to take advantage of the weakness in the cancer cells. In these cases where no targeted therapy is available, patients may receive chemotherapy.