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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 6;109(45):E3119-27. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216078109. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Combined targeting of HER2 and VEGFR2 for effective treatment of HER2-amplified breast cancer brain metastases.

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Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology, Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Brain metastases are a serious obstacle in the treatment of patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2)-amplified breast cancer. Although extracranial disease is controlled with HER2 inhibitors in the majority of patients, brain metastases often develop. Because these brain metastases do not respond to therapy, they are frequently the reason for treatment failure. We developed a mouse model of HER2-amplified breast cancer brain metastasis using an orthotopic xenograft of BT474 cells. As seen in patients, the HER2 inhibitors trastuzumab and lapatinib controlled tumor progression in the breast but failed to contain tumor growth in the brain. We observed that the combination of a HER2 inhibitor with an anti-VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR2) antibody significantly slows tumor growth in the brain, resulting in a striking survival benefit. This benefit appears largely due to an enhanced antiangiogenic effect: Combination therapy reduced both the total and functional microvascular density in the brain xenografts. In addition, the combination therapy led to a marked increase in necrosis of the brain lesions. Moreover, we observed even better antitumor activity after combining both trastuzumab and lapatinib with the anti-VEGFR2 antibody. This triple-drug combination prolonged the median overall survival fivefold compared with the control-treated group and twofold compared with either two-drug regimen. These findings support the clinical development of this three-drug regimen for the treatment of HER2-amplified breast cancer brain metastases.

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