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Experimental Cancer Treatments for Breast Cancer

written by: Vasanth • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/7/2011

Several experimental cancer treatments are tested for their effectiveness against breast cancer. Anti-angiogenesis drugs target the blood vessels supplying cancer cells, and PARP inhibitors reduces the cancer cell's resistance to chemotherapy. A breast cancer vaccine is also being developed.

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    Anti-Angiogenesis Drugs

    One type of experimental cancer treatment with possible applications for breast cancer is anti-angiogenesis drugs. This is a group of drugs that are designed to prevent the formation of new blood vessels surrounding a tumor. The goal is to block the supply of oxygen and nutrients so that the tumor doesn't grow. Bevacizumab is an anti-angiogenesis drug that is used for several types of cancer. Its potential benefits for breast cancer are still being researched.

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    PARP Inhibitors

    Another class of drugs that has shown promising results in breast cancer trials is PARP inhibitors. This group of drugs is particularly effective against cancers that arise from the BRCA mutation. Iniparib is a PARP inhibitor that has been shown to reduce the size of tumors and prolong the life of women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. The drug works by disrupting the metabolic pathway responsible for repairing DNA in cancer cells. Without the ability to repair itself, the cancer cells are degraded by the chemotherapy regimen.

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    Eribulin and Abraxane Chemotherapy

    Eribulin and Abraxane are two more chemotherapy drugs that were recently developed for breast cancer. Both are similar to docetaxel and paclitaxel. In fact, Abraxane is paclitaxel, but the drug is delivered in a different way. It utilizes nanoparticle technology to bind itself to albumin, a protein in the blood. The albumin carries the drug to the tumor. This reduces the chemotherapy infusion time and reduces side effects since the drug isn't in a solvent.

    In clinical trials, women that had taken Eribulin lived longer than those on standard chemotherapy drugs. A side effect of this drug is nerve damage, which can lead to numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This is in addition to common chemotherapy symptoms. The drug is given as an injection.

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    High-dose Chemotherapy with Stem Cell Transplant

    High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is another experimental cancer treatment for breast cancer. It is designed to replace cells that develop into blood cells after they are destroyed by chemotherapy. To do this, samples of stem cells from the individual's bone marrow are taken and frozen. Then, a high dose of chemotherapy is given to fight the cancer. Afterward, the stem cells are thawed and infused back into the bloodstream. They will eventually develop into blood cells. This is a risky alternative to standard chemotherapy, since the high dosage may lead to death. It's only suitable for clinical trials at this point.

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    Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation

    Accelerated partial breast irradiation is a technique that delivers a lot of radiation in a short period of time to a specific area of the breast. This is suitable for only a select group of women, specifically those that are over 60 years of age and have early stage breast cancer. The advantage of this technique is that less tissue is exposed to radiation, but the disadvantage is that the treatment may miss some of the cancer cells.

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    Breast Cancer Vaccine

    There have been promising clinical trials regarding a vaccine for some types of breast cancer. Researchers at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute introduced a-lactalbumin into mice. Afterward, the mice didn't develop breast cancer. In mice with tumors, the vaccine inhibited its growth. More research needs to be done before the vaccine is ready for clinical trials.

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    Reference

    1. "New Treatments for Breast Cancer." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/features/new-treatments-for-breast-cancer

    2. "Experimental Drug Helps Fight Aggressive Breast Cancer: Report." Drugs.com. http://www.drugs.com/news/experimental-helps-fight-aggressive-breast-cancer-report-28732.html.

    3. "What's New in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment." American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-new-research

    4. "Breast Cancer Treatment." National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/breast/Patient/page5

    5. "Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation Acceptable for Small Subset of Breast Cancers." HemOnc Today. http://www.hemonctoday.com/article.aspx?rid=42246

    6. "Breast Cancer Vaccine Shows Promising Results." CBSNews. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/31/earlyshow/health/main6534772.shtml