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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

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 docetaxel

TAC 

Docetaxel, 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 (HER2-positive) breast cancers. TCH is not used without trastuzumab.

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

HER2/neu-positive tumors

All breast cancers are tested for HER2/neu status. HER2/neu status and other factors help guide treatment (learn more).  

If a tumor is HER2/neu-positive (HER2-positive), the targeted therapy drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) is included in the chemotherapy regimen. Trastuzumab is not used to treat HER2/neu-negative (HER2-negative) 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-positive breast cancers have used the AC regimen followed by a taxane drug (paclitaxel or docetaxel) and added the trastuzumab during the taxane treatment. This is the ACTH drug regimen listed in Figure 5.5.  

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.

Susan G. Komen® position on fairness in oral chemotherapy drug coverage  

While intravenously (IV) chemotherapy is a well-known part of cancer treatment, an increasing number of chemotherapy drugs today can be taken by mouth (oral). Insurance policies have not kept pace with these advances in chemotherapy. As a result, people often find themselves facing high out-of-pocket costs when filling their prescriptions for oral chemotherapy (sometimes costing thousands of dollars per month). This disparity exists because IV chemotherapy is usually covered under a health insurance plan’s medical benefit, whereas oral chemotherapy is usually covered under a plan’s prescription drug benefit.  

High prescription drug costs are a barrier to care. High costs can prevent people from getting the medications prescribed by their health care providers. No one should be forced to get less appropriate treatment simply because an insurer provides more coverage for IV chemotherapy than oral chemotherapy.  

Komen supports efforts at the state and federal level to require insurers to provide equal (or better) coverage for oral chemotherapy as they provide for IV chemotherapy to ensure people have access to affordable, appropriate treatment for their cancer.

Updated 04/29/14

 

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Chemotherapy 

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Going Through Chemotherapy 

  Side Effects of 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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Emerging Areas in Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy and Targeted Therapy 

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Questions for Your Provider - Chemotherapy 

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