New Hope For More Effective HER2+ Breast Cancer Treatment

breast cancer cells
A new study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, set out to identify parts of the body responsible for one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, HER2+. The researchers found 38 genes and molecules that most likely trigger HER2+ to spread, and hope the findings will result in a more effective treatment.
The HER2+ subtype of breast cancer accounts for approximately 20 to 30 percent of early-stage breast cancer diagnoses, which are estimated to be more than 200,000 new breast cancer diagnoses each year in the USA, leading to approximately 40,000 deaths annually. Several cancer chemotherapy drugs do work well at early stages of the disease - destroying 95 to 98 percent of the cancer cells in HER2+ tumors. However, many of these patients develop resistance to the drugs, and the 2 to 5 percent of the remaining breast cancer cells begin to grow and cause tumors again.
In this study, the researchers compared gene expression differences among HER2+ breast cancer tissues of uncontrolled HER2 activity with those having greatly diminished HER2 activity. Ultimately their work revealed 35 genes and three long intervening noncoding RNA (lincRNAs) molecules that were most associated with the active HER2+ cells. These lincRNAs could potentially open the door for RNA-based therapeutics, a therapeutic strategy that has great potential but has not been fully tested in the clinic yet.
The next step for the researchers is to begin assessing which approaches to these genes and molecules have the greatest chance to slow or stop HER2+ cell activity. They can test currently approved compounds or drugs to learn which ones will neutralize these 35 genes and prevent dangerous cell activity.
The researchers have less certain ideas regarding how to approach neutralizing the lincRNAs. Much less is known about how these molecules function, so they will start with antisense oligonucleotide-based therapies and proceed from there.
Based on material originally posted by Case Western Reserve University.
Image: Breast cancer cells (source)