Breast Cancer: Targeted Therapies
Targeted therapies specifically block processes in the cancer cells that are important for tumor growth. Target points are depending on the drug certain target structures (English “targets”) in the tumor cells. Only breast cancer patients whose tumors show such a target structure (which is not always the case) are eligible for targeted therapy. In addition, such therapies are often only used in advanced breast cancer, usually as a supplement to other treatments (such as chemotherapy).
Here are some examples of targeted drugs approved for breast cancer treatment:
Targeted therapies for breast cancer include antibody therapy (immunotherapy) with HER2 antibodies (trastuzumab, pertuzumab): Some breast cancers have a large number of docking sites for growth factors, the so-called HER2 receptors. These tumors grow particularly aggressive. In the past, affected women often could not help so well. This has changed with the advent of HER2 antibody therapy: HER2 antibodies block receptors so that growth factors can no longer dock – slowing or blocking cancer growth.
The HER2 antibody trastuzumab is already approved for early breast cancer stages, but can also be used in advanced and metastatic breast cancer. It may be infused before or after surgical removal of the tumor (neoadjuvant or adjuvant). Most patients receive additional chemotherapy.
Sometimes with trastuzumab another HER2 antibody called pertuzumab is given. It looks similar, but not exactly the same as trastuzumab. The combination of both antibodies together with chemotherapy may therefore be particularly effective.
tyrosine kinase inhibitor
Certain enzymes are involved in the transmission of growth signals within cancer cells . These include the so-called tyrosine kinases. They can be blocked with so-called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. As a representative of this group of drugs Lapatinib is approved for the treatment of advanced breast cancer: The active ingredient is taken in tablet form – usually as a supplement to a chemo and a hormone therapy.
If the breast cancer exceeds a certain size, the supply of oxygen and nutrients via the existing blood vessels is no longer sufficient. The tumor itself then stimulates the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis). With so-called Angiogenesehemmern the neovascularization can be prevented – the tumor “starved”. An example of an angiogenesis inhibitor is the active substance bevacizumab . It can be given as an infusion for advanced breast cancer in combination with chemotherapy. However, the application is carefully considered because bevacizumab has ultimately not proven to be as effective as initially hoped.
Breast cancer: Further therapies
The breast cancer therapy with surgery, chemotherapy & Co. is supported by further measures in many patients. Some of these are used to prevent or alleviate side effects of the therapy. For example, chemotherapy often causes nausea and vomiting. On the other hand help special medicines, so-called antiemetics ( anti-emetics ).
Also acupuncture can relieve nausea and vomiting. The targeted placement of the needles is often also recommended against the prolonged fatigue and tiredness (fatigue) in cancer patients. In general, no adverse effects on cancer patients are to be expected.
Regarding yoga, there are usually no concerns either: It is used against stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue (fatigue) and can improve the overall quality of life of cancer patients.
Cancer patients can also benefit from exercise and exercise . Anyone who is unsure about exercise intensity should ask the attending physician for advice.
Medicinal plants in breast cancer
Herbal supplements are also often used in cancer – sometimes rightly, but not in others. Some examples:
If the treatment causes fullness, fennel tea can help.
Mistletoe extracts are said to be effective in several ways in breast cancer (and other cancers): they should be effective against the tumor, prevent relapse and improve the tolerability of chemotherapy. However, these effects could not be proven so far. Some patients also have an allergic reaction to the plant preparation, which is generally injected into or under the skin. In addition, it can not be ruled out that mistletoe extracts can influence ongoing tumor therapy.
Extracts of black cohosh can relieve hot flashes, such as those that occur as a result of anti-hormone therapy. According to current knowledge, nothing seems to speak against the use of the medicinal plant in breast cancer. However, as yet unknown about possible side effects or interactions with cancer therapy.
Tip: If you want to use medicinal plants during your breast cancer treatment, you should first discuss this with your doctor. He can warn you of possible side effects or interactions.