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ESMO Open. 2017 Nov 24;2(5):e000279. doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2017-000279. eCollection 2017.

Activating HER2 mutations as emerging targets in multiple solid cancers.

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Department of Oncology, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK.
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family of transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinases activates signalling pathways regulating cellular proliferation and survival. HER2 is a non-ligand-binding member of this family and exerts its activity through heterodimerisation with other EGFR family members. HER2 functional activation promotes oncogenesis, leading to the investigation of HER2-directed agents in cancers with HER2 alterations. This has been best characterised in the context of HER2 gene amplification in breast and gastro-oesophageal cancers, for which HER2-directed drugs form part of standard treatment regimens. More recently, somatic HER2 gene mutations have been detected in a range of human cancer types. Preclinical data suggest that functionally activating HER2 mutations may drive and maintain cancers in a manner analogous to HER2 gene amplification and that HER2 mutations may similarly confer sensitivity to HER2-directed drugs. Here, we critically review the emerging roles for HER2-directed drugs in HER2 mutant cancers. We review data from experimental models, where our knowledge of the underlying biology of HER2 mutational activation remains incomplete. We discuss clinical data from Phase I and II clinical trials which evaluate HER2-directed agents (tyrosine kinase inhibitors and antibody-based drugs) in several cancer types. We highlight the heterogeneity of HER2 mutations in human cancers, differences in the clinical efficacy of HER2-directed drugs between cancer types and possible mechanisms of primary and acquired resistance, in order to guide clinical practice and future drug development.


activating mutations; cancer; her2; oncogene; treatment

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