Understanding the Role of the HER2/neu Gene in Breast Cancer

The HER2/neu gene is present in one quarter of all breast cancer cases. This gene has a severe tendency to overproduce and perform abnormally, so when it is present in breast cancer patients, the cancer is often very aggressive. Herceptin, whose chemical name is trastuzumab, is utilized to treat advanced breast cancers that have become overly aggressive due to this gene. This immunotherapy bolsters and mimics the body’s own immune system in order to fight the advanced aggressive cancer.

How Herceptin Targets HER2/neu in Breast Cancer Treatment

In this manner, it specifically preys on the HER2/neu gene, much like the body’s own antibody proteins when they specifically attack foreign invaders and cater their attacks based on the type of invasive entity. The benefits are especially pronounced when this drug is given as part of an overall chemotherapy regimen. In this case, some studies show a reduction in recurrence risk by 40 percent initially and an increase in the 10-year disease-free survival rate up 12 percent to 74 percent disease-free survival.

Notable Improvements for HER2/neu Positive Patients

The addition of Herceptin also drastically reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence for certain breast cancer patients that were HER2/neu positive. The first signs that Herceptin was effective came in 2005, with additional studies finding more efficacy in further updates and study reviews conducted on the drug’s usefulness in treating advanced stage breast cancer. These new studies showed that Herceptin was effective in this pursuit when added to the chemotherapy regimens of these particular patients.

Addressing Long-Term Benefits and Side Effects of Herceptin

The long-term benefits of introducing Herceptin to chemotherapy regimens were also bolstered by the extensive studies and reviews taking place after the initial success in Herceptin use. However, in the initial reports, the dire side effect of the development of fatal heart issues in people using Herceptin was cited as a corresponding side effect of Herceptin use. This fatal corresponding side effect has not been borne out in further studies.

Herceptin’s Sustained Effectiveness and Broad Application

Additionally, doctors point out that the significant benefits of Herceptin use do not subside after initial success. This degradation of effectiveness over time has proven that some medications used to fight aggressive breast cancer, especially, do not have sustainable benefits, but Herceptin is bucking this trend in the new reports. Furthermore, Herceptin was equally valuable to young and old patients, effective when the cancers are fueled by female hormones, and in patients whose cancer had metastasized into the lymph nodes.

Potential Risks and Precautions with Herceptin and Doxorubicin

There is a significant risk of developing congestive heart failure when Herceptin is combined with a certain chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin, but it has been successfully added to regimens in which this therapy is not used.