Drugs Approved to Treat Breast Cancer

Woman discussing breast cancer treatment options with doctorIf you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, then your doctor is going to have to determine the most appropriate treatment options given the stage at which your disease was diagnosed, the type of breast cancer, your overall health, as well as your personal preferences as a patient. Depending on their stage, most women will probably choose to undergo surgery to remove the breast cancer, but there are a range of other treatments and drugs which can be applied (including hormone therapy, radiation, and chemotherapy).

(For more information on breast cancer, please see: Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms)

Given your own circumstances at the time of your diagnosis, you may feel overwhelmed by the options that are available to you, since these can involve some complex decisions as to how you will proceed with your treatment. In some cases, you may want to consider enrolling in a breast cancer clinical trial. This research has helped to develop a number of drugs which can be used to treat breast cancer effectively.

Targeted Drugs Available for Breast Cancer Patients

The targeted drugs which have been developed for patients with breast cancer will seek out and attack specific abnormalities within the cancer cells. Drugs that have been approved by the FDA to treat breast cancer include:

  • Pertuzumab (Perjeta): Pertuzumab was designed to target HER2 and it has been approved to treat metastatic breast cancer in combination with chemotherapy and trastuzumab. This potent combination therapy has been reserved for patients who have not received any other drugs for their cancer. The side effects of this medication can include heart issues, hair loss, and diarrhea.
  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin): Some patients’ cancers can produce an excessive amount of human growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), a protein that facilitates the increased growth of breast cancer cells. If your cancerous cells are producing too much HER2, trastuzumab can help by inhibiting the production of this protein and allowing an opportunity for the cancer cells to die off. The side effects of this breast cancer drug include diarrhea, heart issues, and headaches.
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb): Here is another breast cancer drug which is designed to target the protein HER2, and it has been approved to treat people with advanced stage or metastatic breast cancer. Lapatinib can be applied in combination with hormone therapy or chemotherapy. The potential side effects from using this drug include nausea, diarrhea, pain in the hands and feet, and heart complications.
  • Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla): This medication can be used in combination with trastuzumab to kill off cancer cells. As these drugs enter the patient’s body, the trastuzumab guides the ado-trastuzumab to the cancer cells as they are attracted by HER2. If you are a patient who has metastatic breast cancer, but you have already taken trastuzumab in combo with chemotherapy, then your doctor may recommend ado-trastuzumab emtansine.
  • Bevacizumab (Avastin): We have chosen to list this cancer drug here, although it is no longer approved for the treatment of breast cancer in the United States. Clinical studies have shown how this medication does combat breast cancer cell growth, but there is no evidence that it helps to improve survival rates among patients.

We have compiled this list of breast cancer drugs for you to peruse at your convenience, but please remember the wide variety of treatment options available to people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Your cancer treatment team of specialists may never recommend any of the drugs listed on this page.