Carolinas HealthCare System
Summer 2012

An Exciting Quarter for HER2+ Breast Cancer Research

Levine Cancer Institute offers patients access to hundreds of clinical trials at any given time. Of note, we have recently been involved in investigating novel agents for women with advanced HER2 over-amplified breast cancer to improve quality of life and overall survival. “Over-amplified” HER2 disease occurs when the HER2/neu gene is expressed to excess and presents a good target for one of the novel therapeutic compounds. About 15 to 20 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have the HER2 over-amplified form of the disease.

Making Positive Strides

Steven A. Limentani, MD, Medical Director for Clinical Trials, Levine Cancer Institute
Steven A. Limentani, MD,
Medical Director for
Clinical Trials,
Levine Cancer Institute
At the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in June, positive Phase 3 results of the EMILIA clinical trial, investigating the effectiveness of trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) to treat HER2 over-amplified breast cancer, were released. The agent works by binding to HER2 to deliver chemotherapy linked to trastuzumab preferentially to cancer cells, sparing healthy cells. Carolinas HealthCare System had this and other trials open evaluating this agent.

Pertuzumab, another HER2 drug we’ve investigated, recently received FDA approval for use as a firstline therapy for women with HER2 over-amplified metastatic breast cancer. Pertuzumab should be used in combination with other HER2- targeted medicines like trastuzumab. It works by helping to prevent the HER2 receptor from pairing with other HER receptors on the surface of cells, a process that’s believed to play a role in tumor growth and survival. It’s the first medicine that has been shown to improve upon the current standard of treatment— trastuzumab and chemotherapy—in women with previously untreated HER2 over-amplified metastatic breast cancer. Pertuzumab and trastuzumab complement each other. Both bind to the HER2 receptor but in different places—the combination is thought to provide a more comprehensive blockade of HER signaling pathways.

These breakthroughs are a direct result of the contributions made by many heroic patients who chose to participate in clinical trials comparing current standards of care to what we think will be better.


Clinical Trial Participation

For information about how to refer a patient, contact:
Beatriz Perez-Li, RN 704-446-5285

We believe this new drug combination, using two targeted medicines, will transform the way HER2 over-amplified metastatic breast cancer is treated. Then, as with all research, the goal is to administer the drugs to patients with earlier stages of disease, so that we can prevent them from developing late-stage disease. For example, we’re also one of only six sites in the world and only two in the country to offer patients access to a Phase 1 study investigating the use of pertuzumab for early-stage first-line treatment of the disease. Moreover, these targeted therapies will allow us to more effectively treat patients without the level of chemotherapy toxicity we see today. Additionally, these agents could have implications to help us apply targeted therapies to other types of cancer.

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