Herceptin ®/Taxol ®
Effective for Advanced Breast Cancer Recurring After Anthracyclines
According to a recent article published in the British Journal
of Cancer, the treatment combination consisting of Herceptin ®
(trastuzumab) and paclitaxel (Taxol ®) appears to be effective
in the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer
that has stopped responding to treatment with anthracyclines
and taxanes. 1
Metastatic breast cancer refers to cancer that has spread
outside the breast to distant and/or several sits in the body.
Chemotherapy remains the main component of treatment for metastatic
breast cancer. Chemotherapy agents referred to as anthracyclines
(doxorubicin, epirubicin, liposomal doxorubicin) and taxanes
(Taxotere ®, paclitaxel) remain among the most active agents
in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. However, patients
often experience a cancer recurrence of continued growth following
treatment with anthracyclines and/or taxanes. Researchers
continue to evaluate different treatment combinations for
women who have stopped responding to anthracycline and/or
taxanes therapy, as many chemotherapy agents exist that provide
anti-cancer activity in this group of patients.
HER2-positive breast cancer refers to a specific type of
breast cancer in which the cancer cells display an overabundance
of small proteins on their outer surface called human epidermal
growth factor receptor 2 protein (HER2). HER2 proteins bind
with other specific proteins which stimulates cancer cells
to replicate and grow in an uncontrolled manner. Herceptin ®
is the first monoclonal antibody that has been approved by
the FDA for the treatment of breast cancer. Monoclonal antibodies
are proteins that can be made in the laboratory and are designed
to recognize and bind to very specific sites on a cell. Herceptin ®
is a monoclonal antibody that binds to the HER2 protein. This
binding action is thought to achieve anti-cancer benefits
through two distinct processes. First, the binding of Herceptin ®
blocks other proteins from binding to HER2, thereby eliminating
the stimulating effects on cancer cells. Second, the binding
action of Herceptin ® appears to stimulate the immune system
to attack and kill the cancer cells to which Herceptin ®
is bound. Results have demonstrated that treatment with Herceptin ®
plus chemotherapy improves outcomes compared with chemotherapy
alone in patients with HER2-positive advanced breast cancer.
Researchers from Italy recently conducted a clinical trial
to evaluate the treatment combination of Herceptin ® plus
paclitaxel in women with metastatic breast cancer that has
stopped responding to anthracycline and taxanes therapy. This
trial involved 25 patients who were HER2-positive. A complete
disappearance of cancer was achieved in 16% of patients, a
partial disappearance of cancer was achieved in 40% of patients,
and disease stabilization was achieved in 16% of patients.
The average duration of response to Herceptin ®/paclitaxel
was over 10 months.
The researchers concluded that the combination of Herceptin ®
and paclitaxel appears to be an effective treatment option
for women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer that
has stopped responding to anthracyclines and taxanes. However,
there appears to be a trend for physicians to treat patients
with combinations including Herceptin ® and chemotherapy
as initial therapy for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.
Patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer that
has stopped responding to anthracyclines and taxanes may wish
to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits
of Herceptin ® and paclitaxel or the participation in a
clinical trial evaluating other novel treatment approaches.
Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials
include the National Cancer Institute ( cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.
Personalized clinical trial searches are also performed on
behalf of patients by cancerconsultants.com.
1. Gori S, Colozza M, Mosconi AM, et al. Phase II Study of
weekly Paclitaxel and Trastuzumab in Anthracycline-and Taxane-Pretreated
Patients with HER2 Overexpressing Metastatic Breast Cancer.
British Journal of Cancer. 2004;90:36-40.
2. Slamon DJ, Leyland-Jones B, et al. Use of chemotherapy
plus a monoclonal antibody against HER2 for metastatic breast
cancer that overexpresses HER2. The New England Journal of