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- 25 September 2019

How trastuzumab has transformed the outlook for women with HER2+ disease

Intro text: 

When the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab was licensed for the treatment of HER2+ metastatic breast cancer in 1998, HER2+ tumours were among the hardest to treat. Fast forward two decades and anti-HER2 therapy is one of the biggest success stories in modern cancer treatment – for metastatic and early stage HER2+ breast cancer.

“Progress has been astonishing and anti-HER2 therapies are now lifesaving for women with early stage disease because they increase the chance of cure. For women with advanced disease, they prolong survival without altering quality of life because most are extremely well tolerated,” says Professor Martine Piccart, professor of oncology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Director of Research at Jules Bordet Institute, Brussels, Belgium. Professor Piccart is also co-founder and chair of BIG.

Even so, one in four women with node-positive HER2+ breast cancer still relapses and dies within 10 years, despite trastuzumab therapy, so the battle is far from won.

Considerable hope rests on the newer anti-HER2 therapies, such as the monoclonal antibody pertuzumab, the anti-HER1/2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib, and trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), which uses trastuzumab to target chemotherapy directly at HER2+ cells. But biomarkers are needed to identify women most likely to benefit from these new approaches.

Relevant BIG studies/trials: