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U-M study challenges notion of using Herceptin only for HER2-positive breast cancer
Date:2/26/2013

percent to 5 percent of all the cells in a tumor. They are resistant to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments but since they express HER2, they are effectively targeted by Herceptin.

Further, the researchers in this new study found that for tumors classified as HER2-negative, HER2 levels were higher in bone metastases compared to the primary breast tumor. Bone is the most frequent site to which breast cancer spreads.

The researchers administered Herceptin to mice with these bone lesions and found that it was most effective when given early, when tumors were small or mere "micrometastases." In these cases, Herceptin almost completely blocked the tumors from growing. When the drug was given later, after tumors were established, it had little effect.

"We have shown that the bone microenvironment induces HER2 expression in these tumors. If Herceptin can target bone micrometastases, then administering it to patients before metastases develop could help reduce tumor recurrence," says study author Hasan Korkaya, Ph.D., research assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

The implications of this finding are that we need cancer treatments that target the small number of cancer stem cells in addition to traditional chemotherapies that eliminate the bulk tumor cells. This means that merely looking at whether a tumor shrinks is not good enough to determine whether the treatment will have long term benefit.

"This work has very significant implications for how we have developed adjuvant therapies. The idea of using drugs that cause tumors to shrink, which has been the accepted paradigm for developing therapies, is flawed. Our work suggests that adjuvant therapies will need to target the cancer stem cell population. Eliminating cancer stem cells by effective adjuvant therapies should prevent tumor recurrence, ultimately resulting in more cures," Wicha says.


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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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U-M study challenges notion of using Herceptin only for HER2-positive breast cancer
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