Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body. Are there specific treatment options that work best for this cancer type? Let’s dig in.

Role of Hormones

A tumor profile reveals the type of receptor in the cancer cells. Receptors include progesterone, HER2/neu, and estrogen receptors. For patients with a positive progesterone or estrogen receptor, they use hormonal therapies that block hormones. The presence of the two receptors means that body hormones influence breast cancer.

For postmenopausal women, treatment involves hormonal therapy using an aromatase inhibitor. Premenopausal women use aromatase or tamoxifen to block hormones and suppress ovaries.

Also, treatment for MBC depends on the presence of pre-existing medical conditions like heart rate.

Targeted Treatment

For patients with HER2-positive, doctors recommend medicines that counteract the HER2 receptor. Trastuzumab and pertuzumab (prescribed together with trastuzumab) are some of the medications. T-DM1 (Kadcyla) is given only if chemotherapy and trastuzumab have already been used.

For progesterone or estrogen-positive patients, palbociclib and fulvestrant or letrozole are given.

Side Effects of Targeted Treatments

Medical care teams monitor patients for side effects during and after treatment. Some side effects include:

  • Impact on heart function (mostly caused by trastuzumab)
  • Neutropenia or low count of white blood cells
  • Diarrhea
  • Inconsistent liver function

Oncologists discuss expected side effects with patients before treatment commences. If the side effects are intolerable, doctors will suggest a change in therapy.

Improving Outcomes

If MBC progresses during treatment, oncologists explore other therapeutic options. The choice is based on a patient’s overall condition and individual tumor factors. However, the treatment team will explain the change to the patient and the details of the new treatment plan.

To improve outcomes, patients should focus on techniques that reduce treatment side effects and improve quality of life. Exercise, stress reduction techniques, and maintaining a healthy weight have a positive impact on MBC patients.

Researchers are always evaluating MBC studies. New treatment options with fewer side effects and better outcomes are sometimes available for clinical trials. Although MBC is not curable, oncologists consider and discuss with their patients the clinical trials for treatment options that provide targeted MBC treatment.