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Anticancer Drugs. 2012 Sep;23(8):765-76. doi: 10.1097/CAD.0b013e328352d292.

Recent advances in novel targeted therapies for HER2-positive breast cancer.

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Breast Cancer Medicine Service, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA.


The monoclonal antibody trastuzumab has improved the outcomes of patients with breast cancer that overexpresses the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). However, despite this advancement, many tumors develop resistance and novel approaches are needed. Recently, a greater understanding of cellular biology has translated into the development of novel anti-HER2 agents with varying mechanisms of action. The small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib has demonstrated activity in HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and in the preoperative setting. Pertuzumab is a monoclonal antibody with a distinct binding site from trastuzumab, which inhibits receptor dimerization. In recent studies, the addition of pertuzumab to combination therapy has led to improvements in progression-free survival in patients with HER2-positive MBC and higher response rates in the preoperative setting. An alternative approach is the use of novel antibody-drug conjugates such as trastuzumab-emtansine, which recently demonstrated activity in MBC. Neratinib, a pan-HER tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which irreversibly inhibits HER1 and HER2, also has proven activity in MBC. A range of compounds is being developed to attempt to overcome trastuzumab resistance by targeting heat shock protein 90, a molecular chaperone required for the stabilization of cellular proteins. Furthermore, agents are being developed to inhibit the mammalian target of rapamycin, a downstream component of the PTEN/PI3K pathway, which has been implicated in trastuzumab resistance. Finally, there are emerging data indicating that combinations of anti-HER2 agents may circumvent resistance mechanisms and improve patient outcomes. In this review, recent data on these emerging agents and novel combinations for HER2-positive breast cancer are discussed.

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