Oncology & Cancer

Shorter drug treatment OK for many breast cancer patients

Many women with a common and aggressive form of breast cancer that is treated with Herceptin can get by with six months of the drug instead of the usual 12, greatly reducing the risk of heart damage it sometimes can cause, ...

Oncology & Cancer

Herceptin boosts survival for breast cancer, study reports

(HealthDay)—Adding the drug Herceptin to chemotherapy for certain breast cancer patients increases overall survival and reduces the risk of recurrence compared to chemotherapy alone, new research shows.

Oncology & Cancer

Significant discovery could tackle spread of breast cancer

(Medical Xpress)—For the first time, researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have revealed the molecule αvβ6 (alpha v beta 6) plays a fundamental role in helping breast cancer cells to grow and spread. ...

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Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a monoclonal antibody that interferes with the HER2/neu receptor.

The HER receptors are proteins that are embedded in the cell membrane and communicate molecular signals from outside the cell to inside the cell, and turn genes on and off. The HER proteins regulate cell growth, survival, adhesion, migration, and differentiation—functions that are amplified or weakened in cancer cells. In some cancers, notably some breast cancers, the HER2 receptor is defective and stuck in the "on" position, and causes breast cells to reproduce uncontrollably, causing breast cancer.

Antibodies are molecules from the immune system that bind selectively to different proteins. Trastuzumab is an antibody that binds selectively to the HER2 protein. When it binds to defective HER2 proteins, the HER2 protein no longer causes cells in the breast to reproduce uncontrollably. This increases the survival of people with cancer. However, cancers usually develop resistance to trastuzumab.

The original studies of trastuzumab showed that it improved survival in late-stage (metastatic) breast cancer, but there is controversy over whether trastuzumab is effective in earlier stage breast cancer.[citation needed] Trastuzumab is also controversial because of its cost, as much as $100,000 per year[citation needed], and while certain private insurance companies in the U.S. and government health care systems in Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere have refused to pay for trastuzumab for certain patients, some companies have since accepted trastuzumab treatment as a covered preventative treatment.

Trastuzumab was originally developed in mice, as a mouse antibody. Because humans have immune reactions to mouse proteins, it was later developed into a human (humanized) antibody. Because the antibodies were produced from one cell that was grown into a clone of identical cells, it is called a monoclonal antibody.

Trastuzumab is also being studied for use with other cancers. It has been used with some success in women with uterine papillary serous carcinomas that overexpress HER2/neu.

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