Targeted Therapy for Stomach Cancer

In targeted therapy, an NYU Langone doctor prescribes drugs that target the genes, proteins, or tissue environment that contribute to a stomach cancer’s growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells.

To find the most effective medication, NYU Langone doctors may run laboratory tests to identify a tumor’s genes, proteins, and other characteristics. This can usually be done with a blood test or tumor tissue sample.

Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody given through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion. It may be added to a chemotherapy regimen. The drug is composed of antibodies, immune system proteins that recognize and attack foreign substances in the body. These antibodies attach to proteins on the surface of cancer cells, interfering with their ability to grow and function.

Trastuzumab targets a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Some people with stomach cancer have high levels of HER2, which helps tumors grow.

Ramucirumab is another monoclonal antibody used to treat stomach cancer. This drug, which is given through a vein with IV infusion, targets a substance on the surface of cancer cells called vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2. The substance binds with a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, which signals tumor cells to make new blood vessels, helping them to grow. Ramucirumab prevents this from occurring, effectively “starving” the tumor and slowing or stopping its growth.

Common side effects of targeted drugs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth sores. To manage them, NYU Langone doctors adjust the dosage or use other medications to treat symptoms.