Introduction to Medical Oncology
Principles of Systemic Therapy

Principles of Systemic Therapy



This material builds on material presented in the Introduction to Clinical Oncology module, specifically the content on the hallmarks of cancer and tumour growth (remind yourself if you need to).


Key concepts:

  • cancer is a "systemic" disease - roughly 50% patients will develop metastatic disease

  • systemic therapy (drug therapy - cytotoxic agents, hormones, biologics) distributes widely through the body - normal and malignant tissues

  • local therapy (surgery, radiation) is directed to a defined area of documented or presumed disease



Goals of Systemic Therapy


Systemic therapy can be given for:

  • cure

  • increase survival

  • palliate symptoms through disease control

  • primary / induction treatment - when local treatment is insufficient and disease is proven to be disseminated beyond the scope of local therapy

  • adjuvant / preventive treatment - when disease has possibly disseminated beyond the scope of local treatment (risk of micrometastasis) and when there is a high risk of recurrence with local treatment alone