New Drug Gives Hope To Women With Advanced Breast Cancer

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be a scary and stressful experience, though it isn't a rare one: According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., with over 290,000 estimated new cases diagnosed in 2022. Despite how common the condition is, it can look extremely different from one person to the next. The American Cancer Society points out that there are several types of breast cancer, and the condition can be diagnosed at different stages, depending on how far it has spread in the body.

Metastatic breast cancer – or advanced breast cancer that has spread to other body parts — cannot be cured and accounts for the majority of breast cancer deaths (per However, treatments are available that can extend life expectancy after diagnosis.

Treatments for advanced breast cancer can include surgery, cryotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy (per But these traditional treatments don't work for all patients. Now, a new drug may help slow cancer progression when other treatments fail.

FDA-approved drug offers effective treatment option for metastatic breast cancer

In August 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved trastuzumab deruxtecan, a new drug to treat a particular type of metastatic breast cancer when it hasn't responded to chemotherapy and other treatments. In a 2022 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that patients given the new drug saw nearly double the months of progression-free survival and improved survival rates overall compared to patients who received chemotherapy.

The National Cancer Institute explains that the drug, which will appear on the market under the brand name Enhertu, is an ideal alternative for people with breast cancer that contains low levels of HER2, a type of protein. HER2-low breast cancer has, until now, been difficult to treat, even though the majority of patients with breast cancer are thought to have this type.

These findings offer hope to those who have advanced breast cancer that has continued progressing despite treatment attempts. Researchers did note possible adverse reactions in the lungs, though side effects, in general, were found in fewer patients than in those who received chemotherapy treatment (52.6% and 67.4% respectively, per the study).

The official website for Enhertu says the drug is administered via IV line once every three weeks, though the length of treatment can vary based on doctor discretion.