New Chemo Medicines Treat Metastatic Disease

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If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, new treatment advances can never happen quickly enough. It's especially true for women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. When a treatment doesn't work or stops working, it can feel like there's been no progress at all.

A study shows that researchers ARE steadily finding new and better ways to treat breast cancer, including advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. On average, women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2001 lived more than 50% longer after treatment started than women diagnosed and treated 10 years earlier in 1991. During that 10 years, 6 new drugs or drug types became available to treat metastatic breast cancer. They are:

  • paclitaxel (brand name: Taxol)
  • vinorelbine (brand name: Navelbine)
  • aromatase inhibitors (brand names: Arimidex, Femara, and Aromasin)
  • docetaxel (brand name: Taxotere)
  • trastuzumab (brand name: Herceptin)
  • capecitabine (brand name: Xeloda)

While not specifically addressed in this study, it's likely that some of the improvement in survival from 1991 to 2001 was because doctors had more knowledge about how and when to use the treatment options available for metastatic breast cancer.

Doctors expect this steady improvement in treatment options to continue. Since 2001, more new treatments for metastatic breast cancer have become available. These include:

  • fulvestrant (brand name: Faslodex)
  • albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel (brand name: Abraxane)
  • lapatinib (brand name: Tykerb)

And others, such as ixabepilone, are expected to become available very soon.

Breast cancer treatment advances can never be fast enough for women who are being treated, especially those with metastatic disease. Still, treatments do offer real hope, as does the knowledge and skill of the doctors and other healthcare professionals who care for women with breast cancer.

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