> Emerging Areas in the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Many new treatments for metastatic breast cancer are under study. Most of these are drug therapies. Some focus on treating the whole body, while others focus on the breast, chest wall and nearby lymph nodes. Findings from clinical trials of these treatments will determine whether they become a part of standard care for metastatic breast cancer.
Learn about clinical trials.
Tyrosine-kinase inhibitors are targeted therapies for cancer. Although some tyrosine-kinase inhibitors are used to treat other types of cancer, lapatinib (Tykerb) is the only one FDA-approved for the treatment of breast cancer. Lapatinib is only used to treat HER2/neu-positive metastatic breast cancer.
Other tyrosine-kinase inhibitors are under study for use in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
Learn more about lapatinib in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors are a new class of drugs under study for many types of cancer, including breast cancer. PARP is an enzyme involved in DNA repair. Some chemotherapy drugs damage DNA. Adding a PARP inhibitor to these chemotherapy plans may lower the chances cancer cells become resistant (stop responding) to the chemotherapy.
At present, PARP inhibitors are only offered in clinical trials for people with metastatic breast cancer. Early findings suggest PARP inhibitors hold the most promise for BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers (people who have a mutation in one of these genes), although clinical trials with non-carriers are still ongoing .
Read comments on the potential uses of PARP inhibitors from our Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Eric Winer.
Bevacizumab (Avastin) and other anti-angiogenesis drugs
Bevacizumab (Avastin) blocks angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels). Without a blood supply, the cancer cannot grow.
Although early data found bevacizumab offered benefit to women with HER2/neu-positive metastatic breast cancer, longer-term follow-up data did not confirm these findings. In November 2011, the FDA revoked its approval for the use of bevacizumab in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer . However, bevacizumab and other anti-angiogenesis are still under study for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and for treatment in the neoadjuvant setting for early breast cancer. Bevacizumab is still FDA-approved for use in other cancers.
Methods of checking treatment response
Tumors often develop resistance (meaning they stop responding) to drugs used to treat metastatic breast cancer. New ways to monitor response to treatment are under study.
Circulating tumor cells
Many studies have shown circulating tumor cell levels can help predict survival time for people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer [38-40]. The more circulating tumor cells in the blood, the more advanced metastatic breast cancer is likely to be. Having more of these cells may also predict a lack of response to treatment.
At this time, circulating tumor cell testing is not routinely done in clinical practice. Researchers are studying whether it provides more information than standard tests and tumor markers in guiding the treatment of metastatic breast cancer .
After talking with your health care provider, we strongly encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial of new treatments for metastatic breast cancer. If your medical center does not offer clinical trials, you may want to get a referral to a cancer center with access to emerging treatments.
BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen for the Cure® offers a custom matching service that can help you find a clinical trial for people with metastatic breast cancer. Learn more about this program.
Learn more about clinical trials and find a list of resources to help you find a clinical trial.
Meet Cindy Colangelo, a metastatic breast cancer survivor participating in a clinical trial.
Our commitment to research
|At Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, we are committed to ending breast cancer forever by energizing science to find the cures and ensuring quality care for all people, everywhere. Our global research grants and scientific programs are essential driving forces for achieving this mission. Many of the world’s leaders in breast cancer research have been supported by Komen’s research and scientific programs – including three Nobel Laureates. Komen’s funding has supported research that has resulted in a better understanding of breast cancer; earlier detection; personalized, less invasive treatments for what was once a “one-treatment-fits-all” disease; and improved survival rates. Learn more about the exciting research we are funding.
* Note that the information in Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the posting date. Thus, some information may be out of date.