New therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer developed

July 26, 2011, American Association for Cancer Research

Patients with HER2-positive breast cancer may soon have an alternative therapy when they develop resistance to trastuzumab, also known as Herceptin, according to a laboratory finding published in Clinical Cancer Research.

Jacek Capala, Ph.D., D.Sc., an investigator at the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues designed, produced and tested HER2-Affitoxin, a novel protein that combines HER2-specific affibody molecules and a modified bacterial toxin, PE38.

"Unlike the current HER2-targeted therapeutics, such as Herceptin, this protein does not interfere with the HER2 signaling pathway but, instead, uses HER2 as a target to deliver a modified form of specifically to the HER2-positive . When cells absorb the toxin, it interferes with and, thereby, kills them," said Capala.

At least, that is what happened in Capala's laboratory. After Affitoxin was injected into tumor-bearing mice, even relatively large, aggressive tumors stopped growing and most of them disappeared. The effect was strong enough that Capala believes it warrants a clinical trial.

"Herceptin has revolutionized the treatment of patients with HER2-positive , but a significant number of tumors acquire resistance to the drug," said Capala. "Affitoxin could offer another therapeutic option for those patients whose tumors no longer respond to Herceptin."

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