A targeted therapy is a drug designed to attack a certain molecular agent or pathway involved in the development of cancer. For example, the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) targets a certain gene's protein called HER2 that is found on the surface of some cancer cells.
Unlike chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapies kill cancer cells with little harm to healthy cells.
One of the drawbacks of these therapies is that they only work on cancers that have the specific markers they were designed to target. So, many people cannot use these drugs.
Targeted therapies offer promise for current and future breast cancer treatments.
To learn more about a specific targeted therapy drug, visit the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus website.
Learn about trastuzumab in the adjuvant treatment of early and locally advanced breast cancer.
Learn about trastuzumab and pertuzumab as part of neoadjuvant treatment of early and locally advanced breast cancer.
Learn about trastuzumab, lapatinib and other targeted therapies in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) also has overviews of treatment options.
Komen Support Resources
Targeted therapy drug costs can quickly become a financial burden for you and your family.
Medicare and many insurance providers offer prescription drug plans. One may already be included in your policy or you may be able to buy an extra plan for prescriptions.
You may also qualify for programs that help with drug costs or offer low-cost or free prescriptions.
Learn more about insurance plans and prescription drug assistance programs.
Susan G. Komen's position on fairness in breast cancer medication coverage
Medications taken by mouth (oral), such as lapatinib, are usually covered under a health insurance plan’s prescription drug benefit rather than the plan’s medical benefit. As a result, people often find themselves facing high out-of-pocket costs when filling their prescriptions (sometimes costing thousands of dollars per month). High prescription drug costs are a barrier to care. High costs can prevent people from getting the medications prescribed by their health care provider.
Komen supports efforts at the state and federal levels that require insurers to provide coverage for oral breast cancer medications at a rate no less favorable than what they provide for IV medications, such as trastuzumab and pertuzumab, to ensure patients have access to affordable, appropriate treatment for their cancer.
Targeted Therapy Video
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
Breast Cancer 101 - Targeted Therapy
2016 Research Fast Facts
Precision Medicine: Targeted Therapies
Facts for Life: Targeted Therapies
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