• Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers logo 

    Breast Cancer Treatment Center

    Metastatic Breast Cancer Program

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Care

    Treating patients with metastatic breast cancer is a significant part of our practice at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers. Our doctors, nurses, research staff, social workers, and others provide continuous care, support, and assistance. We are committed to providing each patient with the best and most personalized treatment options available, taking advantage of the full range of services of a top-ranked cancer hospital and research center.

    About Metastatic Breast Cancer

    When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, such as the bones, brain, liver, or lungs, it is called metastatic (also referred to as advanced or stage IV).

    Although it is not curable, metastatic breast cancer can be treatable. Today, with new therapies, including biologic targeted treatments and novel drug combinations, women with metastatic breast cancer can live well for many years. Through our overarching metastatic breast cancer program, called EMBRACE (Ending Metastatic Breast Cancer for Everyone), our experts offer standard therapies and lead multiple clinical trials for each subtype of metastatic breast cancer.

    We have a greater number of metastatic breast cancer patients, and offer more clinical trials, than any other cancer center in New England. We offer ongoing educational opportunities for referring physicians as well as patients. We also conduct a longitudinal study (also called EMBRACE) on outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer.

    Just as we create a personalized treatment approach for your specific type of cancer, we also design an individual plan of care and support for you and your loved ones, based on your goals and values.

    Near or far, we are here for you

    As partners in your treatment, our care team can also collaborate with you and your local oncologist during the course of your treatment if you live a distance away. Near or far, we are here to provide active, continuous care to help you achieve the highest possible quality of life and make informed decisions about your care.

    Dr. Eric Winer on Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Metastatic breast cancer is a stage of breast cancer that has moved to other parts of the body. Eric Winer, MD, director of Breast Oncology at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers, describes metastatic breast cancer symptoms, treatment options and prognosis.


    Compassionate Clinical Care, Comprehensive Support Services

    nurse with a metastatic breast cancer patient

    Our care team works closely with each patient, providing the expertise and collaboration of many specialists. Experts from medical oncology, surgical oncology, and radiation oncology coordinate your care to ensure that you will receive the combination of treatments that is best for you, and enjoy the best possible quality of life.

    In addition to medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists and nurses, your care team can include social workers, nutritionists, psychologists and psychiatrists, exercise physiologists, integrative therapists (acupuncturists, massage therapists), and others.

    Learn more about how we treat breast cancer.

    An outreach coordinator meets EMBRACE patients on their first day, outlines the services available to them, and guides them at every step. These services include integrative therapies, support groups, and peer mentorship.

    We offer patient- and family-centered care, which means that you and your family are the focus of our attention. Your health care team will take the time to listen, understand your needs and preferences, and help give you a better sense of control over your life.

    Learn more about our breast cancer support services.

    The Patient Experience

    Although there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, it is very treatable. Thanks to new therapies developed through clinical trials, women and men with metastatic breast cancer often lead full, active lives.

    Still, living with incurable cancer takes a certain kind of courage and resolve. The following individuals share their insights into what they've learned and into what keeps them grounded, purposeful, and happy as they go about their day-to-day lives, living with metastatic breast cancer.

    Duncan Finigan

    "I choose to call it treatable, non-curable cancer. On my first appointment they told me, 'You're going to live for many, many years. We have solutions to deal with your cancer. You have a chronic disease, like diabetes.'" 

    Watch a video of Duncan Finigan telling her story at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers Executive Council Breakfast.

    Duncan Finigan 

    Lise Pass

    "You have to empower yourself against cancer, to think of it as an uninvited guest. You may need to live with it, but you can't let it encompass you. I am a 55-year-old wife and mother who cares for children who need me. I am so much more than the cancer." 

    Read about Lise Pass — a foster parent of 48 children —- who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for nearly a decade.

    Lise Pass 

    Kiara Kharpertian

    "You wouldn't think that sitting in an infusion room at Dana-Farber's Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers would lend itself to addressing hurried save-the-date envelopes or sketching centerpiece designs, but that is exactly what I did over the next three months." 

    Read Kiara Kharpertian's account of meeting her husband-to-be, falling in love, and planning their wedding after her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer.

    Kiara Kharpertian 

    Meg McCormick

    "When I learned I had a stage IV breast cancer, I decided not to let it rob me of the opportunities to enjoy my life. I still have a physically active, socially engaged lifestyle, and if you have metastatic breast cancer, so can you." 

    Read about Meg McCormick's cancer journey and the people, experiences, and attitude that fuel her zest for life.

    Meg McCormick 

    Michael Selsman

    "Men don't have the opportunities to find breast cancer during a routine check-up like women do. I want to change that, and save other families from the pain and challenge of living with stage IV male breast cancer." 

    Read about Michael Selsman's efforts to raise awareness of male breast cancer and the genetic risks that run in some families — including his.

    Michael Selsman 

    Clinical Trials for Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Because we recognize that metastatic breast cancer is not just a single disease, we personalize clinical trials to each patient's type of cancer and diagnosis, matching patients with the trial that is the most compelling and relevant for their kind of breast cancer. We are conducting multiple clinical trials to study the effect of new targeted drugs, particularly in patients with metastatic disease. Much of the research work performed at Dana-Farber has resulted in treatment breakthroughs and new standards of care for patients with metastatic disease.

    See our full list of clinical trials for metastatic breast cancer.

    Should you participate in a clinical trial?

    Participating in a clinical trial is a very personal decision, and a choice that is completely yours to make. If it feels right to you, there are several good reasons to participate:

    • Clinical trials are how we make progress against cancer.
    • Over the past decade, thanks to participating patients, a number of new drugs have been approved for treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
    • Taking part in a clinical trial can offer you new treatment options.
    • By participating in a clinical trial, you contribute to knowledge that can help future patients.

    Learn more about clinical trials and whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you.

    EMBRACE Study

    Ending Metastatic Breast Cancer for Everyone (EMBRACE) is a research study conducted at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This study began recruiting patients in 2009, with the aim of learning more about the biology of advanced breast cancer, as well as the treatment experiences of patients living with it.

    Each patient's progress is tracked by a study coordinator, and the information collected is used to help doctors understand more about the long-term journey of the metastatic breast cancer patients in this group. Investigators hope the study will bring them closer to finding a cure for this disease.

    The study also sponsors a metastatic breast cancer forum every year, as well as webcasts of topics relevant to patients with metastatic disease.

    The study is not sponsored by drug companies, and patients are not required to be on any drug trials.

    For more information on EMBRACE, please email embrace@partners.org.

    Contact Us

    To find out more about our metastatic breast cancer expertise and resources, please contact one of our nurses at 617-632-3478.

  • Email
  • Print
  • Share
  • Text
Highlight Glossary Terms