Skip to main content

Other Treatments for Breast Cancer

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses medications to seek out cancer cells and destroy them. With breast cancer, medications such as trastuzumab, bevacizumab, or lapatinib modify the body's immune system to treat cancer.

A specific oncogene, human epidural growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/neu), is associated with nearly 30% of breast cancers. These cancers also have a tendency to be more aggressive. HER2 enhances the development and progression of certain types of breast cancer. Targeted therapy inhibits specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as blood vessel growth, which the tumor needs in order to grow.

Targeted therapies are used for early- and late-stage breast cancers

Side Effects and Management

Because these medications target cancer cells specifically, the side effects are not as severe as with chemotherapy drugs. Side effects may include:

Your doctor will talk to you about the risks and benefits of targeted therapy treatment. A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects including medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. The earlier the side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.

Revision Information

  • Breast cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed November 2, 2015.

  • Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated September 2013. Accessed November 2, 2015.

  • Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated September 14, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.

  • Hackshaw A. Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists in the treatment of breast cancer. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009;10(16):2633-2639.

  • HER2 inhibitors for breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated January 12, 2015. Accessed October 3, 2016.

  • Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated October 22, 2015. Accessed November 2, 2015.

  • 11/16/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Goel S, Sharma R. Hamilton A, Beith J. LHRH agonists for adjuvant therapy of early breast cancer in premenopausal women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD004562.

  • 2/12/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Kelly CM, Juurlink DN, Gomes T, et al. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and breast cancer mortality in women receiving tamoxifen: a population based cohort study. BMJ. 2010;340:c693.

  • 2/19/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Desmarais JE, Looper KJ. Interactions between tamoxifen and antidepressants via cytochrome P450 2D6. J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;70(12):1688-1697.