Research into treatment for secondary breast cancer

Secondary breast cancer means the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. This is also called advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Sadly, secondary breast cancer can’t be cured. But treatment aims to control the disease and give a good quality of life for as long as possible.

Researchers around the world are looking at new treatments and combining different treatments.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for breast cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Some of the trials on this page have now stopped recruiting people. It takes time before the results are available. This is because the trial team follow the patients for a period of time and collect and analyse the results. We have included this ongoing research to give examples of the type of research being carried out in breast cancer.

When looking at the trials database, click on the ‘recruiting’, ‘closed’ and ‘results’ tabs to make sure you see all the trials.

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments must be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe


Chemotherapy is a type of anti cancer drug treatment. These drugs work by killing cancer cells. They work throughout your body and are called a systemic treatment. Researchers are looking at:

  • different combinations of chemotherapy drugs
  • combining chemotherapy with targeted drugs
  • combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy

Hormone therapy

Many women with secondary breast cancer take hormone therapy to try and shrink and control the cancer. Research is looking at:

  • new hormone drugs, such as camizestrant, giredestrant and elacestrant
  • combining hormone therapy with targeted drugs

Immunotherapy and targeted cancer drugs

Targeted cancer drugs work by targeting the differences in cancer cells that help them to grow and survive. Other drugs help the immune system to attack cancer. They are called immunotherapies.

Some drugs work in more than one way. So they are targeted as well as working with the immune system. 

Many trials are looking at these drugs to control breast cancer that has come back or spread beyond the breast. For secondary breast cancer, researchers are looking at:

  • monoclonal antibodies, such as pembrolizumab or atezolizumab
  • cancer growth blockers, such as crizotinib, lenvatinib, or taselisib
  • PARP inhibitors Open a glossary item such as niraparib
  • targeted cancer drugs or immunotherapy with chemotherapy
  • a combination of targeted cancer drugs and hormone therapy
  • having two different targeted cancer drugs together
  • new targeted cancer drugs such as inobrodib and golidoctinib
  • a combination of an antibody drug conjugate Open a glossary item and targeted cancer drugs
  • a combination of an antibody drug conjugate and immunotherapy drug
  • a new type of antibody drug conjugate called datopotamab deruxtecan

Research into triple negative breast cancer that has spread

Triple negative breast cancers don’t have receptors for oestrogen Open a glossary item, progesterone Open a glossary item or HER2 Open a glossary item. So treatments such as hormone therapy or trastuzumab don’t work. Doctors are looking at ways to improve treatment.

To treat triple negative advanced breast cancer, researchers are looking at:

  • chemotherapy with targeted drugs such as capivasertib
  • a combination of targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy
  • a new targeted cancer drug called HMBD-001
  • a combination of monoclonal antibodies

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