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A. How Targeted Cancer Therapies Work

Narrator: This is Science Today. It's been five years since the Federal Drug Administration approved Herceptin, a targeted therapy developed to treat breast cancer. Dr. Hope Rugo, of the University of California, San Francisco, says such targeted therapies work by targeting and blocking a known receptor or growth pathway for a breast cancer cell.

Rugo: You could think of it as there is a basketball hoop that a ball has to go through in order to help the cell to grow, but if you block the entrance into that hoop with something that's targeted to that hoop, the shape of that hoop and where it is, then you're going to block the ball going through and the cancer can't grow.

Narrator: Rugo, who co-directs an oncology clinical trials program at UC San Francisco, says five years after Herceptin was approved, they're still testing the drug in early stage breast cancer.

Rugo: Our goal in the future is to find useful agents and move them into the earlier treatment of breast cancer much more quickly.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.