Systemic Therapies for Metastatic Disease

Drugs that are used to manage many types of cancer are called systemic therapies because they circulate throughout the body to attack cancer cells and the environment in which they thrive. Systemic therapies include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and bone-protecting treatments.

While systemic therapies are often used to treat many of the cancers that can lead to spine metastases, this approach is not usually effective once the cancer becomes advanced and has spread to the spine. Occasionally, systemic therapies are used to help slow the growth of certain spine metastases and reduce the risk of vertebral fractures:

  • Chemotherapy may be used to treat metastatic spine tumors that arise from lymphoma, myeloma, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • Hormone therapy, which blocks the activity of hormones that help certain cancers grow, may help slow the growth of spine tumors from breast or prostate cancer.
  • Bone-protecting treatments such as zoledronic acid may be used to slow bone loss and help reduce bone pain in patients with breast cancer or myeloma.