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Targeted Therapies



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Targeted Therapies
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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/neu 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 they only work on cancers that have the specific markers they were designed to target. Therefore, 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

Trastuzumab in the adjuvant treatment of early and locally advanced breast cancer

Learn about trastuzumab in the adjuvant treatment of early and locally advanced breast cancer.

Trastuzumab and pertuzumab in the neoadjuvant (before surgery) 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.  

Trastuzumab, lapatinib and other targeted therapies in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer

Learn about trastuzumab, lapatinib and other targeted therapies in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

Treatment guidelines

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 Care 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.

Prescription drug assistance

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 assistance from programs that help with drug costs or offer low-cost or free prescriptions.  

Learn more about insurance plans and prescription drug assistance programs.  

Komen Advocacy Alliance Position on Oral Targeted Therapy Parity  

At this time, trastuzumab (Herceptin) is the only targeted therapy used to treat early and locally-advanced breast cancer and is given intravenously (through an IV). Some targeted therapy drugs used to treat metastatic breast cancer (such as lapatinib and everolimus) are taken in pill form (orally).

Oral medications are generally covered under a prescription drug plan. However, you may be required to pay for the cost of the drug out-of-pocket, which is typically at a much higher rate than for generic medications. Some people are faced with out-of-pocket costs of hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.

The Komen Advocacy Alliance believes health decisions should be made between a patient and his/her doctor. Treatment decisions should not be constrained by financial factors. People who are fighting cancer should be protected from high out-of-pocket medical costs that could lead to financial hardship and even bankruptcy.

The Komen Advocacy Alliance supports efforts at the state and federal level to require group and individual health insurance plans to provide coverage for oral targeted therapy drugs on terms no less favorable than the coverage provided for IV-administered targeted therapy. At the same time, we must ensure that in adopting oral targeted therapy parity, health insurers are not allowed to reduce the coverage of IV therapies.  

Learn more about the Komen Advocacy Alliance.

Updated 03/28/14


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