Finding out that someone you care about has metastatic breast cancer and requires urgent treatment can be tough. This type of cancer, also known as advanced breast cancer or stage 4 breast cancer, is the spreading or movement of cancer cells from one tissue or organ to another through the bloodstream or lymph system. Thanks to extensive research and a better understanding of the human anatomy, medical experts have made many strides regarding metastatic breast cancer treatment options. So here are the three valuable metastatic breast cancer treatment options that are the current standard of care.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Option #1: Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a standard stage 4 breast cancer treatment option that relies on certain drugs. The patient can receive the treatment orally or intravenously, which then gets distributed to all parts of the body that are under attack. The drugs kill the cancer cells by interfering with their division and growth. Unlike healthy cells that undergo division and grow regularly, cancerous cells are entirely different because they multiply abnormally.
Different chemotherapy drugs function in a variety of ways to destroy cancer cells at various stages of their growth. Hence, a combination of medications is more effective compared to a single drug. Some traditional chemotherapy drugs common in the treatment of stage 4 breast cancer include taxanes like Docetaxel, Taxol, or Paclitaxel; Abraxane or Albumin-bound Paclitaxel; anthracyclines like Doxorubicin or Epirubicin; and Xeloda or Capecitabine.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Option #2: Targeted Treatments
Unlike chemotherapy and radiation, targeted treatments are very effective and cause minimal damage to adjacent tissues or organs. Some work by directly interfering with the development advanced breast cancer, delaying or halting the progression of the disease. Whereas, others function indirectly by stimulating the immune system to deliver toxic substances to the cancer cells or disrupting communication along cell pathways by engaging the proteins involved in their signaling.
Such blocking destroys the ability of the cancer cells to divide and grow. Tamoxifen, Trastuzumab (a monoclonal antibody for HER2), Lapatinib or Tykerb that targets HER2, and Afinitor or Everolimus (recently approved by the FDA for postmenopausal metastatic breast cancer treatment) are common in targeted treatments. Others include Perjeta or Pertuzumab for HER2 positive stage 4 breast cancer.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Option #3: Hormonal Treatments
Hormone therapy can be a metastatic breast cancer treatment option if you have a tumor in your breast that contains hormone receptors. They act like antennae while estrogen or progesterone signals the breast cancer cells to grow through the receptors. Thus, cancer cells with estrogen receptors grow and multiply when they come into contact with the hormone. Hormonal treatments work by attaching to the receptors on the cancer cells, preventing estrogen from getting in touch with them, slowing their growth significantly.
Finally, some of the most effective hormonal treatments in use for stage 4 breast cancer treatment include Tamoxifen (Nolvadex among others), aromatase inhibitors like Arimidex (anastrozole), Femara (letrozole), Aromasin (exemestane), and Faslodex (fulvestrant). Also, note that Tamoxifen is effective either before or after menopause, and all aromatase inhibitors are effective for postmenopausal women.