Chemotherapy/Systemic Therapy

Hoag’s non surgical options, including chemotherapy and radiation therapies, are world-class. Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian was recently named a Radiopharmaceutical Therapy Center of Excellence (RTCoE) by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), a distinction held by only 17 centers in the U.S. including Stanford Health Care, Harvard Medical School and the University of California — San Francisco.

Systemic Therapy is a non-surgical treatment option for cancer patients. Systemic therapy is when drugs are administered into a patient’s blood stream to stop or slow the growth of cancerous cells.

Systemic therapy can be given before surgery (called neoadjunctive therapy) to help shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove. Most often, systemic therapy is given after surgery (called adjunctive therapy) to reduce the risk of reoccurrence or spreading (metastasizing).

Systemic therapy can include:


Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs or chemicals to directly attack cancerous cells. The goal is to destroy the cells or prevent further growth. At times, more than one chemotherapy drug may be administered, since they do not all act in the same way.

Chemotherapy drugs are commonly administered intravenously, although some may be injected into the muscle or under the skin. Some chemotherapy can be taken orally in pill, tablet, or liquid form. Chemotherapy is traditionally an outpatient procedure, and is given in cycles over weeks or months. Unlike Radiation Therapy, chemotherapy drugs cannot target only the cancerous cells, but also effect and weaken healthy cells in the body.

Biological Therapy

Biological therapy, also referred to as “Immunotherapy” utilizes the body immune system to fight cancer cells. This treatment may slow malignant cell growth or keep cancer from spreading. Depending on the cancer diagnosis, immunotherapy may be used alone or with chemotherapy or radiation. It may be given in pill form, through an injection, or intravenously.