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Chapter: 6 - Treatment

Subchapter: 10 - Targeted Therapy

In addition to systemic chemotherapy and hormone therapy, there are newer, more effective treatments that can attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Currently, these targeted methods are commonly used in combination with traditional chemotherapy. However, targeted drugs often have less severe side effects than standard chemotherapy drugs.

Monoclonal Antibodies
One type of targeted therapy currently being studied is monoclonal antibodies. These laboratory-manufactured proteins bind with certain cancers.

Herceptin or Trastuzumab
Monoclonal antibody drugs such as Herceptin (also known as trastuzumab) and Lapatinib target HER2-positive tumors. If cancer cells are positive for the HER2/neu receptors, that means there is an overabundance of receptors on the cancer cell for the growth-stimulating HER2 protein.

The tumor acts almost like a magnet for growth hormones, and when the tumor cells connect with growth hormone cells, the cancer can quickly grow and multiply. Herceptin helps shrink these HER2-positive tumors by finding the cells, binding with them, and blocking the action of the receptor.

Another targeted therapy, Bevacizumab, prevents tumors from making new blood vessels that could feed the tumor, essentially cutting off the cancer cells from all nutrients.

As with all medical treatments, if you experience unusual changes in your health during targeted therapy, notify your doctor immediately.

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Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in their lifetime.

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