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Skin Changes Caused By Targeted Chemotherapies

Why do targeted therapies cause skin changes?

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© American Cancer Society 2010

Targeted therapies help stop cancers from growing, but they also cause skin problems. These therapies target the epidermal growth factor receptor(EGFR) protein. EGFR has been found in larger than normal amounts on the surface of cancer cells from some types of tumors. EGFR tells the cancer cells to grow and divide. The problem is that normal skin cells also have a lot of EGFR. So drugs that target or block EGFR often affect skin cells by turning off the signal for them to grow normally and making it harder for them to retain moisture.

Some of the newer drugs target other proteins, such as vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) and platelet-derived growth factor receptor(PDGFR). These proteins help tumors build and keep a blood supply, but they also seem to be important to the very small blood vessels in the hands and feet. Damage to these tiny blood vessels can cause hand-foot syndrome (described in the next section).

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