Targeted cancer therapies are treatments that target 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.
Pregnant women should not get targeted therapies. The little research that has been done suggests that targeted therapies are not safe during pregnancy. Visit the Treatment for Breast Cancer During Pregnancy page for more information.
These are the targeted therapies doctors use to treat breast cancer:
- Afinitor (chemical name: everolimus) is an mTOR inhibitor. Afinitor works against hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers that have stopped responding to Arimidex or Femara by stopping the cancer cells from getting the energy they need.
- Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab) is a blood vessel growth inhibitor used off-label to treat certain advanced-stage or metastatic breast cancers. Avastin works by blocking the growth of new blood vessels that cancer cells depend on to grow and function.
- Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) is a HER2 inhibitor targeted therapy. Herceptin works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the ability of the cancer cells to receive chemical signals that tell the cells to grow.
- Ibrance (chemical name: palbociclib) is a CDK4/6 inhibitor. Ibrance works against advanced-stage or metastatic, hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer by stopping cancer cells from dividing and growing.
- Kadcyla (chemical name: T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine) is a combination of Herceptin and the chemotherapy medicine emtansine. Kadcyla was designed to deliver emtansine to cancer cells in a targeted way by attaching emtansine to Herceptin. Herceptin then carries emtansine to the HER2-positive cancer cells.
- Kisqali (chemical name: ribociclib) is a CDK4/6 inhibitor like Ibrance. Kisqali works against advanced-stage or metastatic, hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer by stopping cancer cells from dividing and growing.
- Lynparza (chemical name: olaparib) is a PARP inhibitor. The PARP enzyme fixes DNA damage in both healthy and cancer cells. Lynparza works against metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation by making it very difficult for these cancer cells to fix DNA damage.
- Nerlynx (chemical name: neratinib) is an irreversible pan-HER inhibitor. Nerlynx works against HER2-positive breast cancer by blocking the cancer cells’ ability to receive growth signals.
- Perjeta (chemical name: pertuzumab) is a HER2 inhibitor targeted therapy, like Herceptin. Perjeta works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the cancer cells’ ability to receive growth signals.
- Talzenna (chemical name: talazoparib) is a PARP inhibitor, like Lynparza. Talzenna is used to treat locally advanced or metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation by making it very difficult for these cancer cells to fix DNA damage.
- Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib) is a HER2 inhibitor targeted therapy, like Herceptin and Perjeta. Tykerb works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking certain proteins that can cause uncontrolled cell growth.
Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., medical oncologist, Crozer-Keystone Health System, Philadelphia area, PA; Breastcancer.org medical adviser