The first step in treating cancer is understanding what makes it grow. Targeting whatever fuels the cancer’s growth helps us slow down or stop the progression.

At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we offer comprehensive breast cancer care that includes advanced testing and the newest targeted therapies. Our specialists know how to personalize cancer treatment to target the unique characteristics of breast tumors.

What Is Targeted Therapy?

Cancer cells contain mutated (changed) genes and proteins that make the cells divide and multiply quickly. Targeted therapy uses drugs to focus on those genes or proteins and block the growth of cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted drugs do not travel throughout the body. They only pinpoint cancer cells and do not harm normal cells.

Targeted drugs do not work for every breast cancer. Researchers have found a number of different “targets” (genes, proteins and other characteristics) that help breast cancer cells grow and spread. To see if a breast cancer has any of these targets, we study a tissue sample. These tests are completed as part of your breast cancer diagnosis.

Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer: The Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Advantage

At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, a multidisciplinary team collaborates to create a personalized treatment plan that considers your diagnosis, health and preferences. Our breast cancer care includes:

  • Precise diagnosis: We examine breast tissue and perform liquid biopsies (tests done on a blood sample) to determine the characteristics of every tumor. You’ll receive an expert diagnosis quickly so you can begin breast cancer treatment as soon as possible.
  • Access to novel therapies: In addition to standard treatment, we’ll offer opportunities to participate in breast cancer clinical trials whenever appropriate. Through trials offered in Lancaster and at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, you’ll have access to new and promising treatments.
  • Comprehensive support: We offer support services for every aspect of breast cancer care. We’ll help alleviate any discomfort or side effects associated with your treatment. Our oncology certified nurse navigators can connect you with financial assistance, social services and resources for other non-medical concerns.
  • Convenient treatment: We bring advanced and personalized targeted therapy to a community setting. Your targeted treatment will either be administered at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute or taken at home in pill form.

How We Treat Breast Cancer With Targeted Therapy

At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we learn everything we can about a tumor and use targeted therapy whenever appropriate to personalize your treatment. Our oncologists treat only certain types and stages of breast cancer with targeted therapy. They may recommend it alone or in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

We deliver targeted medication either intravenously (through a vein) or in pill form. Depending on the targeted therapy prescribed, you’ll receive the treatment in our infusion center, as an outpatient or at home.

We use targeted therapy to treat many types of breast cancer, including:

HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

We treat HER2 (human epidermal growth factor 2)-positive breast cancers with targeted therapy whenever possible. These targeted drugs work by either stopping cancer cells from growing or by directing chemotherapy to those cells.

The type of targeted therapies used for HER2-positive breast cancer include:

  • Monoclonal antibodies, which attach to the HER2 protein on cancer cells to stop cell growth
  • Antibody-drug conjugates (ADC), a type of monoclonal antibody that attracts toxic substances, such as chemotherapy, to cancer cells
  • Kinase inhibitors, which block kinase proteins such as HER2 that normally signal cancer cells to grow

Hormone-Positive Breast Cancer

We sometimes use targeted therapy to make other treatments more effective. If you have hormone-positive (HR+) breast cancer (also called hormone receptor-positive breast cancer), your medical oncologist may recommend a combination of hormone therapy and targeted therapy. The types of targeted drugs we use for HR+ breast cancer include:

  • CDK4/6 inhibitors, to halt proteins called cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) in hormone receptor-positive cancer cells and stop the cells from dividing
  • mTOR inhibitors, which block the mTOR protein in cells to keep them from growing and dividing
  • PI3K inhibitors, which stop cells from growing by obstructing the PI3K protein found in some cancer cells

Breast Cancer With BRCA Gene Mutations

If you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, we may be able to treat it with targeted therapies called PARP inhibitors. PARP inhibitors stop PARP proteins from repairing damaged DNA in cells. Cancer cells are destroyed when they are not repaired.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer

For some people with triple negative breast cancer, we may recommend targeted therapy used in combination with chemotherapy. We use an antibody-drug conjugate, a drug that binds to a specific protein on the cancer cells and then guides chemotherapy directly to those cells.

Request an Appointment for Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer

To make an appointment at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, call 717-544-9400 or request a callback using our online form.

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