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Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer
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What is HER2-positive breast cancer?

For about 20% of women with breast cancer, the cancer cells test positive for HER2. HER2 is a growth-promoting protein located on the surface of some cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancers tend to grow more rapidly and spread more aggressively.

What tests detect HER2?

All patients with invasive breast cancer should have their tumor cells tested for HER2.

There are four tests for HER2. The interpretation of the tests should be discussed with your health care team. Health care professionals may use either immunohistochemistry (IHC) to identify the HER2 protein or in-situ hybridization (ISH) testing to look for the gene.

IHC test: This tests shows if there is too much HER2 protein in the cancer cells and is graded 0 to 3.

FISH test: This test evaluates if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene in the cancer cells. This test is either positive or negative.

SPoT-Light HER2 CISH test: This test also evaluates if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene in the cancer cells and is reported as positive or negative.

Inform HER2 Dual ISH test: This test also evaluates if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene in the cancer cells and is reported as positive or negative.

Do symptoms and signs of HER2-positive breast cancer differ from those of HER2-negative breast cancer?

The signs and symptoms for HER2-positive breast cancers are the same as for HER2-negative breast cancers, except for the fact that HER2-positive cancers grow faster and are more likely to spread.

What are therapies for HER2-positive breast cancers?

All therapy needs to be evaluated by your health-care team and guided in response to all test results available and the specific circumstances of your cancer.

There are targeted therapies for HER2-positive breast cancers; a number of drugs are available to target this protein:

  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin): a monoclonal antibody given by itself or with chemotherapy to treat HER2-positive breast cancers
  • Pertuzumab (Perjeta): another monoclonal antibody that targets HER2-positive cancers
  • Ado-trastuzumab emtansine or TDM-1 (Kadcyla): a monoclonal antibody that is attached to a chemotherapy drug
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb): a kinase inhibitor usually used in adjunct with chemotherapy or hormone therapy
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Reviewed on 6/26/2017

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