1. What is targeted therapy for breast cancer?
2. When is targeted therapy given?
3. Targeted therapy drugs for breast cancer
4. Side effects of targeted therapies

1. What is targeted therapy for breast cancer?

Targeted therapy, also called biological therapy, is the name given to a group of drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer. 

They target and interfere with processes in the cells that help cancer grow. 

The type of targeted therapy you’re offered will depend on the features of your breast cancer.

2. When is targeted therapy given?

Some people have targeted therapy after surgery to reduce the chances of their breast cancer coming back. 

Sometimes targeted therapy is given before surgery to shrink a larger cancer before it’s removed.

Targeted therapies can also be given if breast cancer has come back or spread to another part of the body. 

3. Targeted therapy drugs for breast cancer

Trastuzumab (Herceptin)

The most commonly used targeted therapy for breast cancer is trastuzumab

It’s used to treat breast cancer that is HER2 positive

Other targeted therapy drugs

Other common targeted therapy drugs for HER2 positive breast cancer include:

Some targeted therapies are used to treat HER2 negative, oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer that has spread. These include:

Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) is a targeted therapy for some triple negative breast cancers that have spread. It’s also referred to as an immunotherapy. 

Denosumab (Xgeva) is a targeted therapy used for treating secondary breast cancer in the bone.

Other targeted therapy drugs not routinely available on the NHS include PARP inhibitors, lapatinib (Tyverb) and bevacizumab (Avastin). 

4. Side effects of targeted therapies

Like any treatment, targeted therapies can cause side effects. 

The side effects will depend on which targeted therapy drug you’re having.

If you’re having targeted therapy at the same time as other treatments, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy, you may have side effects from those as well. 

Side effects are listed on our individual targeted therapy drugs pages – use the links above to find out more.

Last reviewed: April 2021
Next planned review begins 2023

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