Genes contain the proteins a cell needs to stay healthy and function normally. There are specific genes and proteins that can influence how breast cancer behaves. They can also influence its response to specific treatments. Cancer cells are tested on a tissue sample. From there, they are either normal or abnormal. The proteins they make can also be broken down and tested.
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is one such gene that plays a role in the development of breast cancer. When an individual tests positive for breast cancer or has abnormal results, more tests will follow in order to check your HER2 status. This will tell your doctors whether or not HER2 is playing a potential role in the cancer you have.
The HER2 gene makes HER2 proteins which turn out to be receptors on breast cancer cells. Normally, these receptors help build healthy breast cells. However, in about 25% of breast cancers, these receptors make too many copies of itself. With all of the extra HER2 receptors, it makes the breast cancer grow rapidly and almost uncontrollably.
HER2 Breast Cancer Treatments
There are now treatments to specifically target HER2-positive breast cancer. They include:
Herceptin – Which works against HER2-positive breast cancers by stopping the cells’ ability to receive chemical signals that tell them to grow.
Kadcyla – A combination of Herceptin and the chemo-drug emtansine. Kadcyla aids the delivery of emtansine to cancer cells.
Nerlynx – This blocks the cells’ ability to receive growth signals.
Perjeta – Works very similarly to Nerlynx in blocking the cells’ ability to receive growth signals.
Tyberb – Works against HER2-positive breast cancer cells by blocking proteins that cause uncontrolled cell growth.
When HER2 tests come back elevated, these are the current therapies most physicians will suggest. They also work in combination with chemotherapy and other treatments.
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