Decorative image

About targeted cancer drugs

Targeted cancer drugs 'target' those differences that help cancer cells grow and survive.

When you have it

You might have targeted cancer drugs to treat advanced medullary thyroid cancer that is causing symptoms and cannot be operated on. You would have one of the following drugs:

  • vandetanib (Caprelsa)
  • cabozantinib (Cometriq)

You might have lenvatinib for advanced papillary thyroid cancer or follicular thyroid cancer, when radioactive iodine treatment is no longer working.


How they work

Targeted cancer drugs act on processes in cells or change the way that cells signal to each other. They can stimulate the body to attack or control the growth of cancer cells.

How you have it

Most of the targeted cancer drugs for thyroid cancer are tablets. Your treatment team will tell you how often and when you need to take these.

Side effects

The side effects depend on the type of drug you have. Common side effects of targeted cancer drugs include:

    • diarrhoea
    • stomach pain
    • a skin rash
    • feeling or being sick
    • tiredness (fatigue)
    • an increase in your blood pressure
    • not wanting to eat (anorexia)
    • difficulty sleeping

    Your doctor of nurse will explain in detail the side effects you might have and when you should contact them for advice. Look out for side effects such as diarrhoea.

    Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have diarrhoea 4 or more times a day, or any diarrhoea at night.

    When you go home

    Treatment with targeted drugs can be difficult to cope with for some people. Your nurse will give you a number to call (advice line) if you have any problems at home.

    Contact your advice line if you have side effects or any concerns.

    Information and help