Whether you have early stage, advanced or recurrent breast cancer, the medical oncologists at the USC Breast Center will be at the center of your care. Working with your surgical oncologist and/or radiation oncologist, your medical oncologist will create a treatment plan that includes the most advanced medicines available to treat breast cancer.
- Advanced medication-based therapies
- Comprehensive evaluations
- Coordinated care
- Hormone therapy
- Individualized treatment plans
- Targeted therapy
Personalized treatment plans
Our medical oncologists evaluate each patient comprehensively to create a personalized treatment plan that leverages powerful medicines that attack and destroy cancer cells. Depending on your individual diagnosis and characteristics, your medical oncologist may recommend chemotherapy before or after breast cancer surgery. Or, they might suggest a course of estrogen-blocking medicine after surgery to reduce your risk for cancer in the future. If you’re a candidate, they will discuss targeted therapies or immunotherapy with you. And while there may not be a cure for stage 4 metastatic breast cancer yet, our breast cancer specialists can recommend treatments that will help you live a longer life.
Chemotherapy uses medications to destroy cancer cells. If your cancer has a high risk of returning or spreading to another part of your body, our doctors may recommend chemotherapy to decrease the chance that the cancer will come back.
In patients with larger breast tumors, chemotherapy is sometimes given before surgery (called neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink the tumor to a size that makes it easier to remove. It is also used after surgery (called adjuvant chemotherapy) and in patients whose cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy may be recommended to control the cancer and decrease any symptoms the cancer is causing.
Hormone therapy (also known as hormone-blocking therapy) is used to treat breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones. Doctors sometimes refer to these cancers as estrogen receptor–positive (ER-positive) and progesterone receptor–positive (PR-positive). Treatments that can be used in hormone therapy include:
- Medications that block hormones from attaching to cancer cells, called selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) medications. SERMs include tamoxifen, raloxifene (Evista) and toremifene (Fareston).
- Medications that stop the body from making estrogen after menopause, called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase inhibitors include anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara) and exemestane (Aromasin).
- A drug that targets estrogen receptors for destruction, called fulvestrant (Faslodex), which is used in postmenopausal women.
- Surgery or medications to stop hormone production in the ovaries. In premenopausal women, surgery to remove the ovaries or medications to stop the ovaries from making estrogen can be an effective hormonal treatment.
Certain changes in cancer cells can lead to them growing rapidly, and targeted therapy is designed to stop that growth. While chemotherapy destroys all cells that grow quickly — making no distinction between cancerous and noncancerous cells — targeted therapy focuses just on cancer cells. This is why targeted therapy is sometimes called precision medicine.
Some women have breast cancer cells with an increased level of a protein known as HER2/neu, and drugs such as ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), lapatinib (Tykerb), neratinib (Nerlynx), pertuzumab (Perjeta) and trastuzumab (Herceptin) target this protein.
For women with ER-positive or PR-positive breast cancer, targeted drugs can enhance the effects of hormone therapy. Examples include abemaciclib (Verzenio), everolimus (Afinitor), palbociclib (Ibrance) and ribociclib (Kisqali).
Certain women with the BRCA genetic mutation and metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer may benefit from targeted drugs such as olaparib (Lynparza) and talazoparib (Talzenna).
Immunotherapy, the newest class of cancer medications, uses your immune system to destroy cancer cells and can be used for certain types of breast cancer. Atezolizumab (Tecentriq), which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019 for advanced triple-negative breast cancer, is an example of an immunotherapy medicine for certain women with breast cancer. Scientists are also conducting research on other kinds of immunotherapy medications.
Access to clinical trials
The USC Breast Center’s medical oncologists are part of an active community of breast cancer researchers. This gives our patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials that hold the promise of advancing breast cancer treatment. Learn about our breast cancer research »
News and Stories
Dr. Ye is a radiation oncologist at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC. He specializes in a wide array of advanced radiation treatment techniques for people with lung, breast, brain and spine tumors. Here’s what you won’t find on his resume. He can’t wait to swim with manta rays in Kona.
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