Targeted therapies and immunotherapies

Targeted therapies (sometimes called biological therapies) are substances that target differences between cancer cells and normal cells. They are often used to treat kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, including the bones. They are also sometimes used to treat other cancers that have spread, such as prostate, breast and lung cancer.

Targeted therapies include a range of different drugs. They can be given in different ways including:

  • by mouth (orally)
  • by injection under the skin (subcutaneously)
  • by injection into a vein (intravenously).

Side effects vary depending on the drug used. Your hospital team can tell you more.

We have more information on commonly used targeted therapies.


Denosumab may be used to lower the risk of fractures caused by secondary bone cancers. It is also known as Xgeva® or Prolia®. It belongs to a group of cancer drugs called monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of targeted therapy and immunotherapy. They work by ‘targeting’ specific proteins on the surface of cells. Denosumab controls the activity of osteoclasts (cells that break down and remove old bone) and reduces bone breakdown.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved Xgeva use for the treatment of bone secondaries from breast cancer and other solid tumours except prostate cancer. It is given as an injection just under the skin (subcutaneously) every four weeks.

Side effects of Denosumab

Denosumab generally has few side effects. Side effects you may have include:

  • low levels of calcium in the blood – your doctor will probably advise you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent this
  • jaw problems (osteonecrosis)
  • pains in the muscles and joints
  • feeling short of breath
  • diarrhoea
  • excessive sweating.

Your doctor can tell you more about denosumab if it’s a suitable treatment for you.

Back to Targeted (biological) therapies