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Beyond the Basics of Her2 Breast Cancer

Posted 8/10/2013

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  This is a topic of either intense interest or no interest, depending on whether or not your breast cancer is her2 positive. The discovery of the her2 gene and that the development of herceptin have been major milestones in breast cancer treatment. Before anyone knew about her2, it was surely known that some breast cancers were more aggressive than others, but this was an explanation.

  I have often heard the story of the presentation of the first clinical trials of herceptin at the ASCO meeting in 2005. Picture it: an enormous auditorium packed with thousands of doctors and scientists. The results were given, the the room exploded into a standing ovation. Now that is something rarely, if ever, seen at scientific meetings. Herceptin transformed the treatment of these breast cancers, and the more recent discoveries of other targeted treatments for her2 positive cancers has made the progress even greater. I have even heard more than one medical oncologist say that, should she ever be diagnosed with breast cancer, she hopes it will be her2 postive (neither of mine were).

  This is a link to the patient information page about her2 positive breast cancers on Up to Date. I give you the start and then the link:

Patient information: Adjuvant medical therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer (Beyond the Basics)

INTRODUCTION — Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in the United States and up to 20 percent
of women with breast cancer have tumors that have high levels of HER2, which is a protein that is involved in
cell growth, differentiation, and blood vessel formation (angiogenesis). In the past, tumors with high levels of
HER2 (also known as HER2-positive tumors) were associated with an increased risk of both recurrence and
death from breast cancer. However, with the use of chemotherapy and targeted treatment against HER2, the
prognosis of HER2-positive breast cancers has improved substantially.
This article focuses on the adjuvant medical treatment of HER2 positive breast cancer. An introduction to breast
cancer and an overview of treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, and medical therapy, is also
available. (See "Patient information: Breast cancer guide to diagnosis and treatment (Beyond the Basics)".)
More detailed information is available by subscription. (See "Adjuvant medical therapy for HER2-positive breast


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