Targeted (biological) therapy

Read more about targeted therapy, also called biological therapy, including when it's given and its side effects.

1. What is targeted therapy for breast cancer?

Targeted therapy, also called biological therapy, is the name given to a group of drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer.

They target and interfere with processes in the cells that help cancer grow.

The type of targeted therapy you’re offered will depend on the features of your breast cancer.

2. When is targeted therapy given?

Some people have targeted therapy after surgery to reduce the chances of their breast cancer coming back.

Sometimes targeted therapy is given before surgery to shrink a larger cancer before it’s removed.

Targeted therapies can also be given if breast cancer has come back or spread to another part of the body.

3. Targeted therapy drugs for breast cancer

Trastuzumab (Herceptin)

The most commonly used targeted therapy for breast cancer is trastuzumab

It’s used to treat breast cancer that is -positive. 

Other targeted therapy drugs

Other common targeted therapy drugs for HER2-positive breast cancer include:

Some targeted therapies are used to treat HER2-negative, oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer that has spread. These include:

Targeted therapies use to treat some triple negative breast cancers that have spread include:

Denosumab (Xgeva) is a targeted therapy used for treating secondary breast cancer in the bone.

Other targeted therapy drugs not routinely available on the NHS include PARP inhibitors such as olaparib (Lynparza), lapatinib (Tyverb), bevacizumab (Avastin). 

4. Side effects of targeted therapies

Like any treatment, targeted therapies can cause side effects. 

The side effects will depend on which targeted therapy drug you’re having.

If you’re having targeted therapy at the same time as other treatments, such as or , you may have side effects from those as well. 

Side effects are listed on our individual targeted therapy drugs pages – see the purple page blocks above to find out more.

5. Further support

Visit our forum where you can talk to other people having the same treatment as you. 

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Quality assurance

This information was published in April 2021, revised in November 2022. We will revise it in November 2023.

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