Inflammatory Breast Cancer

+ -Text Size


What`s new in inflammatory breast cancer research?

Because inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is rare, it is hard for researchers to find women to study and learn the best treatments for it. But there have been some recent advances in understanding and treating IBC.

Studies have shown that over the past couple of decades, IBC has become more common, while other forms of locally advanced breast cancer have become less common. Researchers are still not sure why this has happened.

Studies comparing DNA and other molecules from IBC with that of the usual types of breast cancer have shown some important differences. Scientists believe that some of these differences account for the unique and aggressive way that IBC spreads and grows. They are hopeful that understanding these differences will lead to more effective treatments that target molecules specific to IBC.

Clinical studies during the past decade have shown doctors how to modify the usual breast cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, and surgery) so that they are best suited for women with IBC. For example, studies have shown the value of using chemotherapy as the first treatment, before surgery or radiation.


Studies are looking at different chemotherapy combinations to treat inflammatory breast cancer, such as epirubicin (Ellence®), albumin-bound paclitaxel (Abraxane®), and gemcitabine (Gemzar®).

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a newer type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack cancer cells while doing little damage to normal cells. These therapies attack the cancer cells' inner workings—the programming that makes them different from normal, healthy cells. Each type of targeted therapy works differently, but all alter the way a cancer cell grows, divides, repairs itself, or interacts with other cells. Targeted drugs work differently from standard chemo drugs and often have different (and less severe) side effects.

Drugs for HER2-positive cancer

One study has shown that the targeted drug lapatinib (Tykerb) can be a useful treatment for IBC in women whose disease has stopped responding to regular chemo plus trastuzumab. In this study the lapatinib was given alone, without other chemo drugs. It caused the tumors to shrink in many of the women treated. This drug is also being studied with chemo before surgery.

Other drugs that target HER2 are also being studied, such as afatinib.

Other targeted drugs

Clinical trials are also looking at other targeted therapy drugs (besides those targeting HER2) in the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer. Some of the drugs being tested include dovitinib and pazopanib.

If you’d like more information on a drug used in your treatment or a specific drug mentioned in this section, see our Guide to Cancer Drugs , or call us with the names of the medicines you’re taking.

Last Medical Review: 08/28/2014
Last Revised: 06/10/2015