Research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer is being done in many medical centers throughout the world.

Causes of breast cancer

Studies continue to find lifestyle factors and habits that alter breast cancer risk. Some studies are looking at the effect of exercise, weight gain or loss, and diet on breast cancer risk. We are also learning more about how genes influence breast cancer. This should happen more quickly now that the human genome has been mapped out.


Radiation treatment

For women who need radiation after breast-conserving surgery, newer methods are being studied to see if they work as well as standard treatments in keeping breast cancer from coming back. They can make it easier to get treatment since the treatment can be done in a shorter time.

New chemotherapy drugs

Because advanced breast cancers are often hard to treat, researchers are looking for newer, better drugs. A drug class has been developed that targets cancers caused by BRCA mutations. This class of drugs is called PARP inhibitors and they have shown promise in clinical trials treating breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers that had spread and were resistant to other treatments. Further studies are being done to see if this drug can help patients withoutBRCA mutations.

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are a group of newer drugs that take advantage of gene changes in cells that cause cancer.

Drugs that target HER2: A number of drugs are approved to target excess HER2 protein. Studies are being done to see how best to use these in treating early breast cancer. Other drugs that target the HER2 protein are being tested in clinical trials. Researchers are also looking at using a vaccine to target the HER2 protein.

Anti-angiogenesis drugs: For cancers to grow, blood vessels must be made to feed the cancer cells. New drugs are being made that may be useful in stopping breast cancer growth by keeping new blood vessels from forming. Some of these drugs are now being tested in clinical trials.

Other targeted drugs: Everolimus (Afinitor) is a targeted therapy drug that seems to help hormone therapy drugs work better. It is approved to be given with one certain hormone therapy drug to treat advanced hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in women who have gone through menopause. It has also been studied with other hormone therapy drugs and for treatment of earlier stage breast cancer.

Other possible targets for new breast cancer drugs have been identified in recent years. Drugs based on these targets are now being studied, but most are still in the early stages of clinical trials.

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