Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Select An Article

Breast Cancer and Biological Therapy

Font Size

Biological therapy uses the body's own immune system to target and fight breast cancer cells.

One such antibody is Herceptin, a monoclonal (meaning single) antibody. An antibody is a protein made by the body's own immune system. Herceptin is a manmade antibody that can work only if the woman carries and overexpresses the HER2 protein in those tumor cells. About 25% of breast cancer patients carry this gene and are considered HER2 positive. Your doctor should check this on your breast biopsy or on the tumor removed during surgery.

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

What I Learned from Breast Cancer

One writer reveals what it's really like to live with the disease day-to-day — and honors the woman who helped her through the darkest moments. Last October, REDBOOK asked readers to send in their stories of how breast cancer had touched their lives — whether they themselves had the disease or had witnessed a loved one facing it down. The entries we received were poignant and powerful, making it difficult to select the grand-prize winner. Its author, Lauren Reece Flaum, 48, was...

Read the What I Learned from Breast Cancer article > >

Herceptin is the first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer in combination with chemotherapy drugs. Herceptin may also be used alone, indefinitely, for HER2- positive metastatic breast cancer.

Perjeta (pertuzumab) is another monoclonal antibody approved for treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breastcancer or for patients who need neo-adjuvant treatment (treatment before surgery). It is approved for use in combination with Herceptin and the chemotherapy Taxotere.

Another drug for patients with HER2 positive disease is Tykerb (lapatinib). It works in HER2-positive patients when Herceptin is no longer effective. It is used in combination with Xeloda, Femara, or Herceptin.

Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine) is a drug used in patients who have metastatic disease and have already taken Herceptin and a class of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes, which are commonly used to treat breastcancer. These drugs may have been used together or separately.

Other types of antibodies are being researched to fight cancer and include:

  • Angiogenesis inhibitors. These antibodies prevent the growth of new blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to cancer cells. However, the only such drug used for breast cancer, bevacizumab, lost its FDA approval for breast cancer because the drug's risks outweighed its benefits and it didn't improve the overall survival of breast cancer patients.
  • Signal transduction inhibitors. These antibodies block signals inside the cancer cell that helps the cells divide, stopping the cancer from growing. They are currently being studied to see if they're effective.

Before treatment begins, print out these Questions to Ask to help you better understand your care.

Also see, Follow-Up Care After Your Treatment.

Next Article:

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