Targeted therapies / Immunotherapy for children’s cancers

Medicines and needle

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are drugs that target certain parts of cancer cells that make them different from other cells. In other words, they take advantage of differences between normal cells and cancer cells.

Different targeted therapies work in different ways. Targeted therapies can work to:

  • Block or turn off chemical signals that tell the cancer cell to grow and divide
  • Change proteins within the cancer cells so the cells die
  • Stop new blood vessels growing to feed the cancer cells
  • Carry toxins to the cancer cells to kill them

Targeted therapies are not the most common treatment for children. Often they are given along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy as part of a clinical trial. They may be used for some types of leukaemia and solid tumours. 

If a targeted therapy might be helpful, your child will have blood tests to see if the cancer cells might respond to the drug. 


Immunotherapy treatment helps the immune system to work better to fight cancer cells.

Sometimes cancer cells find a way of hiding from the immune system, allowing cancer to develop or spread. Immunotherapy treatments can change special immune cells to help them attack the cancer directly. They can also change other parts of the immune system to make it more difficult for cancer cells to grow or spread. 

CAR T-cell therapy
CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy sometimes used for cancer that has come back after treatment or that is not responding to other treatment. It is only used for some types of cancer and is not suitable for every child. Your consultant will tell you if CAR T-cell therapy may benefit your child. 

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