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Womens Health (Lond Engl). 2009 Mar;5(2):135-47. doi: 10.2217/17455057.5.2.135.

Role of trastuzumab in the adjuvant treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer.

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  • 1Western Pennsylvania Hospital, The Western Pennsylvania Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA. bhaq@wpahs.org


Amplification of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) gene occurs in 18-23% of invasive breast carcinomas and is associated with a worse prognosis. This novel transforming gene was identified in 1985, and in 1987 HER2 amplification was demonstrated to be central to the aggressive, malignant phenotype of these cancers and a significant predictor of both time to relapse and overall survival. These observations led to the development of the first monoclonal antibody targeting the extracellular domain of HER2, trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech and Hoffman LaRoche, Switzerland), which was approved by the US FDA for metastatic breast cancer in 1998. In 2005, results from four major trastuzumab adjuvant trials demonstrated a marked reduction in risk of recurrence, and trastuzumab is now an essential component of the adjuvant treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer. Concerns regarding cardiac safety and mechanisms of resistance to trastuzumab remain important issues and are being addressed in ongoing research efforts.

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