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Chemotherapy Drugs

 

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Breast Cancer 101 (Interactive Multimedia) - Chemotherapy Drugs
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Chemotherapy
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Research Fast Facts: Breast Cancer Therapies
Fact Sheet

 

Many of the drugs used to treat early breast cancer and locally advanced breast cancer are different than those used to treat metastatic breast cancer.

Chemotherapy drugs for early and locally advanced breast cancer

Figure 5.4 lists the most effective drugs for treating early and locally advanced breast cancer.

Figure 5.4: Chemotherapy drugs for early and locally advanced breast cancer 

Drug (abbreviation) 

Brand name 

 Cyclophosphamide (C)

Cytoxan

Docetaxel (T)

Taxotere

Doxorubicin (A)

Adriamycin

Epirubicin (E)

Ellence

5-Fluorouracil (5FU or F)

Adrucil

Methotrexate (M)

Maxtrex

Paclitaxel (T)

Taxol

 

Chemotherapy drugs can be given one at a time, or in combination. Common drug combinations used to treat early and locally advanced breast cancer are listed below. Other combinations are also used.   
 

Figure 5.5: Chemotherapy drug combinations for early and locally advanced breast cancer  

Drug (abbreviation) 

Drug combination 

AC 

Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide

AC—>Paclitaxel (T) 

Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel

AC—> Docetaxel (T) 

Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by docectaxel

TAC 

Docectaxel, doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide

TC 

Cyclophosphamide and docetaxel

CMF 

Cyclophosphamide, methotrexate (Rheumatrex) and 5-fluorouracil

TCH 

Docetaxel, carboplatin and trastuzumab (Herceptin)*

ACTH  Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel and trastuzumab*
*Only used for HER2/neu-positive breast cancers. TCH is not used without trastuzumab.

HER2/neu-positive tumors

All breast cancers are tested for hormone receptor status and HER2/neu status. These tumor characteristics guide treatment (learn more). If a tumor is HER2/neu-positive (HER2/neu+), the targeted therapy drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) is included in the chemotherapy regimen. Trastuzumab is not used to treat HER2/neu-negative (HER2/neu-) cancers. Trastuzumab is given for one year. It is usually started with chemotherapy, and then continued after the chemotherapy has ended.

Most studies on HER2/neu+ breast cancers have used the AC regimen followed by a taxane drug (paclitaxel (Taxol) or docetaxel (Taxotere)) and added the trastuzumab during the taxane treatment (ACTH).

Learn more about trastuzumab.

Chemotherapy drugs for metastatic breast cancer

Some drugs and drug combinations used to treat early breast cancer are also used to treat metastatic cancer. Figure 5.6 lists the most common chemotherapy drugs (used alone or in combination) to treat metastatic breast cancer. This list is not exhaustive and does not include drugs that are rarely used or no longer in use.    

Figure 5.6: Chemotherapy drugs for metastatic breast cancer 

Drug (abbreviation) 

Brand name 

Capecitabine

Xeloda

Carboplatin

Paraplatin

Cisplatin

Platinol

Cyclophosphamide (C)

Cytoxan

Docetaxel (T)

Taxotere

Doxorubicin (A)

Adriamycin

Epirubicin (E)

Ellence

Eribulin

Halaven

5-Fluorouracil (5FU or F)

Adrucil

Gemcitabine

Gemzar

Ixabepilone

Ixempra

Liposomal doxorubicin

Doxil

Methotrexate (M)

Maxtrex

Paclitaxel (T)

Taxol

Paclitaxel, albumin bound

Abraxane

Vinorelbine

Navelbine
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about a specific chemotherapy drug, visit the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus website.

Prescription drug assistance

Chemotherapy 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.
Some drugs are off-patent and a generic form may be available. Generic drugs are cheaper than the name brands, but are just as effective. 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 in oral chemotherapy parity 

Although oral chemotherapy is generally covered under a prescription drug plan, you may have more out-of-pocket costs than with intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. These costs can be high when there is no generic form of the drug. 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 you and your health care provider and should not be constrained by financial factors. People fighting cancer should be protected from high out-of-pocket medical costs that could lead to financial hardship.

The Komen Advocacy Alliance supports efforts at the state and federal level to require group and individual health insurance coverage and group health plans to provide coverage for oral chemotherapy on terms no less favorable than the coverage for IV chemotherapy. At the same time, we must ensure health insurers are not allowed to reduce the coverage of IV chemotherapy.   

Learn more about the Komen Advocacy Alliance.

Updated 07/30/13

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Going Through Chemotherapy 

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Short-Term Side Effects of Chemotherapy 

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Long-Term Side Effects of Chemotherapy 

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