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Breast Cancer Drugs - Medication Information

Many women are prescribed drugs as part of their breast cancer treatment. The type of drug and dosage will vary from patient to patient depending on her medical situation. This section outlines some of the drugs commonly used to treat breast cancer.

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list of all drugs used to treat breast cancer.

Learn about classes of breast cancer drugs.

Abraxane (paclitaxel protein-bound particles for injectable suspension)

Abraxane was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005 to help treat women with advanced breast cancer who have not responded well to combination chemotherapy, or who have relapsed within six months of chemotherapy. Abraxane is similar to the drug Taxol but unlike Taxol, is not required to be dissolved in a toxic solvent prior to administration. This solvent can cause allergic reactions in some patients, and to counteract these reactions, patients are often treated with steroids and antihistamines. Patients receiving Abraxane do not need these treatments.

Side effects of Abraxane may include:

  • Neutropenia (a reduction in white blood cell count)
  • Anemia
  • Infections
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nerve damage
  • Severe pain in the muscles or joints

Full prescribing information is available from Abraxis BioScience, Inc..

Adriamycin (generic name, doxorubicin)

Adriamycin (generic name, doxorubicin) is a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat breast cancer and other cancers. Adriamycin first disrupts, then destroys the growth of cancer cells. It is usually administered intravenously (through the vein).

Common side effects may include:

  • Decreased white blood cell count with increased risk of infection
  • Decreased platelet count with increased risk of bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Darkening of nail beds and skin creases of hands
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mouth sores

Patients should be tested for heart problems before beginning Adriamycin and should be continuously monitored for developing problems during treatment.

Additional information and full prescribing information on Adriamycin (courtesy of Pfizer; requires Adobe Acrobat).

Aredia (generic name, pamidronate disodium)

Breast cancer has the potential to spread to almost any area of the body. After the axillary (armpit) lymph nodes, bone is the most common place to which breast cancer can spread. Aredia (generic name, pamidronate disodium) is a medication that is used to reduce bone complications and bone pain in patients whose breast cancer has spread to the bone. Clinical studies have shown that patients who are given Aredia tend to experience a delay in or reduction of bone pain, fractures, and other bone complications than patients who do not receive Aredia. Aredia is usually administered by intravenous injection along with the patient's other cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy.

Possible side effects of Aredia include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Initial bone pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Anemia (decrease in red blood cells)

Additional information and full prescribing information on Aredia (courtesy of Novartis).