HER2-positive Breast Cancer

This video is an overview of HER2, a protein found on the surface of breast cells that can become overactive in about 20% of breast cancers, leading to HER2-positive breast cancer, which grows faster.

In this video, we learn how understanding HER2 helps create personalized treatment plans.

Read the full video transcript below:

This video is an overview of HER2 for patients with breast cancer. 

HER2 is short for Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2. 

It's a protein that exists on the surface of breast cells and plays a role in cell growth, which is essential for normal breast development and repair. However, in some cases, this protein can become overactive, leading to uncontrolled growth and eventually the development of breast cancer. 

HER2 is overactive in about 20% of breast cancers. Breast cancer cells that have too much HER2 are referred to as HER2-positive breast cancer.

HER2-positive breast cancer tends to grow and spread more rapidly than HER2-negative breast cancer, making it important for diagnosis and treatment decisions. There are several available tests for HER2 breast cancer. 

In this video, we won't go into the technical details, but patients should at least be aware of the names of the two most common HER2 tests, including IHC, which stands for immunohistochemistry, and FISH, which stands for fluorescence in situ hybridization.

If you have questions about your HER2 test, you can ask your doctor for more details. 

Thankfully, after scientists discovered HER2 in breast cancer, they then invented highly effective targeted therapies—medicines that can deactivate HER2 protein. 

Herceptin, also known as trastuzumab, is one of the first drugs developed to target HER2-positive breast cancer. It works by binding to HER2 receptors on cancer cells, blocking their ability to fuel cancer growth, and alerting the immune system to attack the cancer.

Another drug called Perjeta, also known as pertuzumab, is often used in combination with Herceptin. Perjeta also targets HER2 but in a different way. It blocks HER2 from forming pairs with other HER2 receptors, further blocking cancer cell growth. 

Kadcyla is a medicine that combines Herceptin with a chemotherapy drug. It delivers the chemotherapy directly to HER2-positive cancer cells, reducing side effects and improving treatment efficacy.’

Tykerb, also known as lapatinib, is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which means it blocks multiple pathways involved in cancer cell growth. It's used in combination with other treatments for HER2-positive breast cancer. 

Lastly, Nerlynx, also known as neratinib, is prescribed to reduce the risk of recurrence in certain cases of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. It works by blocking multiple pathways that contribute to cancer growth.

Understanding HER2 in breast cancer allows for precise diagnosis, helping doctors tailor treatment plans to the individual needs of each patient. 

This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any medical decisions.