The 12th St Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference (2011) Expert Panel adopted a new approach to the classification of patients for therapeutic purposes based on the recognition of intrinsic biological subtypes within the breast cancer spectrum. For practical purposes, these subtypes may be approximated using clinicopathological rather than gene expression array criteria. In general, systemic therapy recommendations follow the subtype classification. Thus, 'Luminal A' disease generally requires only endocrine therapy, which also forms part of the treatment of the 'Luminal B' subtype. Chemotherapy is considered indicated for most patients with 'Luminal B', 'Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2 (HER2) positive', and 'Triple negative (ductal)' disease, with the addition of trastuzumab in 'HER2 positive' disease. Progress was also noted in defining better tolerated local therapies in selected cases without loss of efficacy, such as accelerated radiation therapy and the omission of axillary dissection under defined circumstances. Broad treatment recommendations are presented, recognizing that detailed treatment decisions need to consider disease extent, host factors, patient preferences, and social and economic constraints.