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The Pros and Cons of Targeted Therapies for Breast Cancer

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According to BreastCancer.org, targeted therapies are treatments that single out specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as a protein that allows the cancer cells to grow in a rapid or abnormal way. Targeted therapies are generally less likely than chemotherapy to harm normal, healthy cells. Some targeted therapies are antibodies that work like the antibodies made naturally by our immune systems. These types of targeted therapies are sometimes called immune targeted therapies.

There are currently three targeted therapies doctors use to treat breast cancer:

Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the ability of the cancer cells to receive chemical signals that tell the cells to grow.

Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib) works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking certain proteins that can cause uncontrolled cell growth.

Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab) works by blocking the growth of new blood vessels that cancer cells depend on to grow and function.

Pros and Cons of Herceptin

Herceptin slows down or stops the growth of breast cancer cells – even with metastatic disease. There are three tests used to determine whether a patient has the particular cancer (HER2-positive) that will respond to this drug. First, there is the IHC test that measures HER2 receptor protein. Second, the FISH test counts copies of the HER2 gene and third, the SPoT-Light HER2 CISH test that counts HER2 copy genes as well.

Herceptin is given intravenously. When first administered, the patient will be monitored closely to observe any adverse reactions. What about side effects?

Common side effects:

Muscle aches

Less common side effects:

Mild heart damage
Severe heart damage
Lung reactions

If heart problems arise, the doctor assigned will discontinue Herceptin and begin heart-strengthening medications. The possibility of heart problems is the reason why doctors usually give the patient a thorough checkup to evaluate this organ as well as the lungs.

Pros and Cons of Tykerb

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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