Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

New Approaches to Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

From tweaking the size and timing of chemotherapy, to adjusting how it's administered, small improvements are making a big difference in women's lives.
Font Size
A
A
A

New Drugs

Of course, the significance of new medications shouldn't be underestimated. "One of the biggest changes we've had in chemotherapy is that we have new agents for breast cancer," says Ellis. Among them are Navelbine, Taxol, and Taxotere, which all work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. While they've proved effective in women fighting advanced breast cancer, they are also currently being studied for use in early breast cancer.

Outside of chemotherapy in the strict sense, hormonal treatments are also having an impact. One of the most exciting developments, says Ellis, has been the development of aromatase inhibitors, including Arimidex, Femara, and Aromasin and the monoclonal antibody, Herceptin.

Combination or Monotherapy?

Experts have long debated whether combination chemotherapy, a number of drugs administered simultaneously, is more or less effective than monotherapy, a single drug given at a time. Recent evidence suggests that it depends on the stage of cancer.

"Clearly," Seidman tells WebMD, "combinations are superior to single agents in adjuvant chemotherapy, which is chemotherapy following radiation or surgery. Experts are constantly tinkering with variations in these combinations to make them more effective and less toxic.

But in cases of metastatic breast cancer, where the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, Seidman points to numerous studies that indicate that using combination therapy is no better than using single drugs in a sequence. For instance, Seidman says that in the recent results of one study by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology group, using Taxol and doxorubicin Adriamycin together had no advantage over using them sequentially.

Despite the progress that's already been made, Ellis sees this as an area of great potential. "There's a lot more work to be done on dose scheduling and combinations," she says. But according to one theory, she says, "it's fiddling with all these little things that's contributing most to lowering the death rate."

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW