Understanding the mechanisms behind trastuzumab therapy for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive breast cancer.


Journal Article (Review)

PURPOSE: Targeted therapy with the humanized monoclonal antibody trastuzumab has become a mainstay for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) -positive breast cancer (BC). The mechanisms of action of trastuzumab have not been fully elucidated, and data available to date are reviewed here. The impact of the mechanisms of action on clinical benefit also is discussed. METHODS: An extensive literature review of trastuzumab and proposed mechanisms of action was performed. RESULTS: At least five potential extracellular and intracellular antitumor mechanisms of trastuzumab have been identified in the preclinical setting. These include activation of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, inhibition of extracellular domain cleavage, abrogation of intracellular signaling, reduction of angiogenesis, and decreased DNA repair. These effects lead to tumor cell stasis and/or death. Clinical benefit from trastuzumab-based therapy in both early and advanced BC has been demonstrated. The benefit of trastuzumab use beyond progression has also been shown, which indicates the need for continuous suppression of the HER2 pathway. Targeting both HER2, with various approaches, and other pathways may enhance the clinical benefit observed with trastuzumab and overcome potential resistance. Novel combinations include pertuzumab (a HER2 dimerization inhibitor), lapatinib (a HER1/HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor), bevacizumab (an antiangiogenic agent), tanespimycin (a heat shock protein inhibitor), antiestrogen therapies, and an antibody-drug conjugate (trastuzumab-DM1). CONCLUSION: Trastuzumab is the foundation of care for patients with HER2-positive BC. Emerging data from studies of other targeted agents may provide alternative treatment combinations to maximize the clinical benefit from trastuzumab and prevent or delay resistance. The continued development of trastuzumab highlights promising treatment approaches for the future.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Spector, NL; Blackwell, KL

Published Date

  • December 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 34

Start / End Page

  • 5838 - 5847

PubMed ID

  • 19884552

Pubmed Central ID

  • 19884552

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-7755

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1200/JCO.2009.22.1507


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States