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New Systemic Therapies for Breast Cancer Treatment

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These days, physicians have advanced methods of treating breast cancer that has spread into other parts of the body. These systemic treatments can be given orally or by injection using chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.

Systemic therapy given to patients after surgery is called adjuvant therapy, with a goal of killing hidden cancer cells that have broken away from the primary breast tumor. Unchecked, these cells spread through the bloodstream to other organs in the body, where they can establish new tumors in organs or bones virtually undetected. 

Sometimes when tumors are large, oncologists give patients systemic therapy before surgery in a process called neoadjuvant therapy.


Chemotherapy, is a treatment involving anti-cancer drugs delivered orally or by intravenous injection. Sometimes doctors will combine different drugs in order to more potently attack the cancer.

Chemotherapy is often given in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a recovery period. The cycles can be weekly, every two weeks or every four weeks or in some other combination. Oral hormonal therapy is usually taken every day. The total course of chemotherapy lasts between three to six months depending on the regimens used.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy deprives breast cancer cells of the hormone estrogen, which helps many breast tumors grow. The drug tamoxifen is commonly used to block estrogen's activity in the body. Tamoxifen helps prevent the original cancer from returning, and also helps to prevent the development of new cancers in the other breast.

Other therapies

A drug has shown success in recent trials. High-risk patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer treated with trastuzumab (Herceptin®) for one year following standard chemotherapy were reported as disease-free. The finding was produced from a large study that compared outcomes in patients randomly assigned to receive standard chemotherapy followed by trastuzumab with those in patients randomly assigned to receive chemotherapy alone.

Progress continues to be made in studies and in lives of our patients at The Breast Center. For more information or to make an appointment, call 443-481-5301.

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