Women’s Health: Targeted Breast Cancer Treatment


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Targeted therapy allows for the more precise treatment of some types of breast cancers. Targeted therapies can be used to treat estrogen receptor (ER) positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 protein (HER-2) positive, and HER-2 negative, according to the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

There are three things St. Peter’s Health Partners Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Duncan Savage, says he worries about when it comes to women with breast cancer; genetic predisposition, prevention of recurrence, and how to reduce the chance of the breast cancer spreading. He says targeted therapy is also another way to think about what the right treatment is for each individual case.

Dr. Savage says treating breast cancer is a collaborative effort between a woman’s surgeon, oncologist, and the radiation oncologist. The doctors will discuss each patient’s health status, formulate a plan then present the options to the patient. It’s important to work with a medical team that the patient feels comfortable with, says Dr. Savage.

Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 Protein (HER-2)

  • HER-2 negative cancers do not respond to drugs that specifically target HER-2.
  • HER-2 positive cancers most often treated with HER-2 targeted drugs.

Targeted therapy types

*Source: National Cancer Institute

There are two major types of breast cancer, ductal and lobular carcinoma, says Dr. Savage. The names indicate from which area the breast cancer formed, either in the milk duct or the milk-producing lobules. It is rare but cancer can also start in the connective tissue of the breast. Ductal carcinoma is the most common breast cancer type, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Consumption of alcoholic drinks puts women at an increased risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Women who have three alcoholic drinks a week are 15% more likely to develop breast cancer. The risk increases another 10% for every drink consumed daily on a regular basis. A study in 2009 found women who consumed three to four alcoholic drinks a week increased the chance of breast cancer reoccurrence diagnosed with the disease in an early stage, according to Breastcancer.org.

Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol also may increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells…

Teen and tween girls aged 9 to 15 who drink three to five drinks a week have three times the risk of developing benign breast lumps. (Certain categories of non-cancerous breast lumps are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.)


During his interview with NEWS10’s Christina Arangio, Dr. Savage brought up the role alcohol can play in the occurrence of breast cancer and stressed the importance of continuing to get preventative screenings.

Watch: Dr. Savage’s interview with Christina Arangio


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