Targeted Therapy for Cervical Cancer

As researchers have learned more about the changes in cancer cells, they have been able to develop newer drugs that specifically target these changes. These targeted drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy (chemo) drugs and often have different side effects.

For example, for tumors to grow, they must form new blood vessels to keep them nourished. This process is called angiogenesis. Some targeted drugs block this new blood vessel growth and are called angiogenesis inhibitors.

Bevacizumab (Avastin®) is an angiogenesis inhibitor that can be used to treat advanced cervical cancer. It is a monoclonal antibody (a man-made version of a specific immune system protein) that targets vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that helps new blood vessels to form.

This drug is often used with chemo for a time. Then, if the cancer responds, the chemo may be stopped and the bevacizumab given by itself until the cancer starts growing again.

Possible side effects of targeted therapy

The possible side effects of this drug are different from those of chemotherapy drugs. Some of the more common side effects can include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of appetite

Less common but more serious side effects can include:

  • Problems with bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Wound healing

A rare but serious side effect is the formation of an abnormal connection (called a fistula) between the vagina and part of the colon or intestine.

Targeted Cancer Therapy has more information about the different kinds of drugs considered targeted therapy.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: November 16, 2016 Last Revised: December 5, 2016

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