Targeted therapies


Targeted therapies are drugs used to treat certain types of cancer cells. Targeted therapies are sometimes called biological therapies.

The most common targeted therapies available in Australia target HER2-positive breast cancer. They are:

  • trastuzumab (Herceptin®)
  • lapatinib (Tykerb®) (currently only used for metastatic breast cancer).

These drugs work by stopping HER2-positive cancer cells from growing and dividing. They are not effective for women with HER2-negative breast cancer.

Another targeted therapy sometimes used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer is bevacizumab (Avastin®). It works by blocking the action of a growth factor called VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor).

The number of available targeted therapies are likely to increase with time as we get more evidence about other treatments.

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