Drug Therapies for Breast Cancer

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We treat breast cancer with several types of medicine. Alone or in combination with each other, drug therapies can stop or kill cancer cells.

Drug Therapies: Expertise Required

Chemo, hormones, and targeted therapies have complicated interactions and side effects. At UVA, our doctors have in-depth experience in figuring out the best approach for each person.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells or stops their growth. The drugs go into your bloodstream. This means they can reach cancer throughout your body.

You can take chemo by mouth or by injection and infusion.

Hormone Therapy 

Hormones are substances made by glands in the body. They flow in the bloodstream. Some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow.

Hormone therapy stops cancer cells from growing by removing or blocking these hormones.

The hormone estrogen makes some breast cancers grow. Hormone therapy stops your ovaries from making estrogen.

What kind of hormone therapy you get depends on your cancer stage and whether you've had menopause or not.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs to attack specific cancer cells. It can do so without harming normal cells.

In breast cancer, targeted therapy uses immune system cells. Called monoclonal antibody therapy, this drug finds substances that help cancer grow. The antibodies attach to the substances. It then kills the cancer cells, blocks their growth, or keeps them from spreading.

The protein HER2 sends growth signals to breast cancer cells. One type of monoclonal antibody can block this protein's power. We can treat one-fourth of patients with breast cancer with this approach.

Many types of antibodies can treat breast cancer. Sometimes, we combine this targeted therapy with chemotherapy. We have other drugs that boost the treatment, too. These antibodies can carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

Researchers continue to look at ways to improve targeted therapy. PARP inhibitors block DNA repair and may cause cancer cells to die. We hope this approach can treat triple-negative breast cancer.

You get targeted therapy through infusion.