Chemotherapy is a type of drug that is used to kill cancer cells. These medications target the vulnerabilities of tumor cells as opposed to normal cells. Cancer cells’ Achilles heel requires a variety of mechanisms to grow faster, repair themselves, use specific nutritional pathways, increase blood flow, reduce cell death signals, and evade immunity. breast cancer chemotherapy and other anti-cancer treatments rely on these mechanisms to attack and kill cancer cells.
Two types of therapy for breast cancer
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Anti-cancer hormone therapy, also known as endocrine therapy, employs drugs to block the estrogen (estrogen) signaling that hormone-sensitive breast cancer cells require to grow and multiply. Breast cancers that primarily use this signaling pathway are identified as estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) and progesterone receptor-positive on tumor cell staining (PR positive). There have been numerous studies involving large numbers of cancer patients that show improved survival for women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer who take these drugs for an extended period. In general, the side effects of hormonal therapy drugs vary depending on the type, but they are usually tolerable and manageable.
- PARP inhibitors (olaparib [Lynparza], talazoparib [Talzenna]): oral drugs approved for the treatment of HER2-negative advanced breast cancer.
- PIK3CAinhibitor (alpelisib[Piqray]): an oral drug used in conjunction with the hormonal therapy drug fulvestrant (Faslodex) in hormone receptor-positive HER2-negative advanced breast cancers with a PIK3CA mutation.
- mTOR inhibitors (everolimus [Affinitor]: an oral drug used in conjunction with exemestane (Aromasin) in advanced hormone receptor-positive HER2-negative breast cancers.
Radiation therapy for breast cancer chemotherapy (or radiotherapy) uses high-energy X-rays to treat breast cancer (radiation). Post-surgery radiotherapy is recommended after a lumpectomy (breast conservation surgery) or, in some cases, after a mastectomy when the risk of locoregional recurrence is high (such as if there are large tumors or severe lymph node disease). Radiation therapy is usually given over several weeks, with the radiation field carefully planned to avoid the significant organs as much as possible.
Radiotherapy is another treatment modality used in advanced cancer to treat conditions such as bone pains and spinal cord nerve compression. Breast cancer brain metastases would frequently necessitate radiotherapy as well. In some cases, stereotactic radiotherapy, or focused radiation to specific tumor sites, may be used to reduce treatment.
While these are the two main treatments, there are many more therapies like Oral chemotherapy, Injected chemotherapy, and Immunotherapy.