From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

June 17, 2020

Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in women (lung cancer remains the first). A form of breast cancer that makes up approximately 25 percent of diagnosed patients is called HER2-positive breast cancer. This type of breast cancer tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). When a cancer is HER2-positive, it means that the cancer cells make too much HER2 protein, which can cause tumors to grow more rapidly than with other forms of breast cancer.

The treatment and early detection for breast cancer has evolved over the last several years providing patients with a more personalized approach, thanks to genomic medicine (also known as targeted therapy), genetic testing and the importance of screening. However, HER2-positive cancer is a more aggressive cancer because of its ability to cause tumors to grow rapidly. Both recurrence and metastases (when cancer spreads) rates for HER2-positive cancer are higher than other breast cancers.

For perspective, most patients with stage 1 HER2-positive breast cancer, receive targeted therapy drugs like trastuzumab (brand name Herceptin) and pertuzumab (brand name Perjeta) and chemotherapy. This approach results in a 7-year disease-free survival rate of about 93%. Long-term follow-up shows disease-free survival rates of about 70% to 75% at 10 years and overall survival rates ranging from 80% to 85%, depending on the study.

However, because the overall survival rate for this aggressive form of breast cancer is poorer than other breast cancers, it is important researchers continue qualifying new therapeutic options to provide greater hope of a long life.

“At OHC, we are evaluating a new treatment for HER-2 positive breast cancer that may offer even better outcomes,” said OHC’s Evan Z. Lang, MD, MS, medical oncologist, hematologist and principal investigator of the OHC clinical trial in which the treatment is being evaluated.

OHC is evaluating a new combination – Herceptin and ibrutinib (brand name Imbruvica) – to see if it will produce better patient outcomes.

“Trastuzumab works by blocking the ability of the cancer cells to receive chemical signals that tell the cells to grow,” explained Dr. Lang. “Ibrutinib also inhibits tumor growth, but it does so in a way that helps the body’s immune system’s T-cells and B-cells respond to the cancer. This gives the patient a two-pronged attack against the breast cancer using the body’s own immune system.”

Ibrutinib is currently approved for use in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma. Previous studies have demonstrated that treatment with multiple HER2-directed drugs is more effective than single drug therapy, therefore this study will explore the effectiveness of the two drugs, trastuzumab and ibrutinib.

“If successful, this clinical trial will provide patients with HER-2 positive breast cancer another treatment option; one that might be better than the current standard of care and ultimately improve patient results,” Dr. Lang added.

The HER-2 clinical trial is another example of how the cancer experts at OHC are always searching for new, better treatments for all types of cancer. Until there is a cure, OHC will continue to surround patients with the treatment, technology and support they need so they can focus on beating cancer. To learn more about OHC’s clinical trials, click here or for a second opinion, click Request An Appointment or call 1-888-649-4800.

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