Molecular targets in cancer therapy

Semin Oncol Nurs. 2003 Aug;19(3):193-205. doi: 10.1016/s0749-2081(03)00047-0.


Objectives: To review selected pharmacologic agents that target key cellular processes along with their mechanisms of action and adverse events. Nursing implications including what patients and families need to know, administration issues, and management of common toxicities will be reviewed.

Data sources: Research articles, clinical trials, abstracts, and book chapters.

Conclusion: Knowledge of complex biology and biochemistry regulating normal and abnormal cellular function obtained over the past 30 years is starting to be used clinically for new therapies to treat cancer. By targeting what makes cancer unique, these therapies are able to spare more healthy or normal cells than the standard treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy. Several molecular targeting agents are now in use and even more are under study as cancer treatments.

Implications for nursing practice: Oncology nurses must understand the principles underlying targeted treatments and their potential benefits to provide adequate patient education and care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Protocols*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Growth Substances / immunology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Oncology Nursing*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Growth Substances
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, ErbB-2