Targeted therapies, a widely applied cancer treatment, are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules that are involved in the growth, progression and spread of cancer. Utilisation of targeted therapy in adjuvant treatment or metastatic breast cancer was approved by the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Together with other advanced cancer treatments offered at Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, FV Hospital, targeted therapy creates more opportunities for successful treatment.
Targeted therapy is highly rated by oncologists and considered a “weapon” for adjuvant treatment in advanced-stage breast cancers. Unlike chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapies kill cancer cells with little harm to healthy cells. For example, the drug Trastuzumab targets a specific gene protein called HER2, found on the surface of some cancer cells. One of the drawbacks of these therapies is that they only work on cancers that have the specific markers which they were designed to target. Therefore, not all patients are candidates for these therapies.
“Escaping” from death thanks to targeted therapy
Patient P, a 37-year-old female patient, had developed breast cancer with a negative hormonal receptor and positive HER2 status. In this instance, her prognosis was worse than many breast cancer cases. After a surgery by tumorectomy to preserve her breast and remove her sentinel lymph nodes, Ms. P. received six cycles of chemotherapy and Trastuzumab during the last three cycles of chemotherapy. Ms. P received radiotherapy then Trastuzumab every three weeks over the course of one year. After treatment, her prognosis became much better than for the other breast cancer.
Dr. Bertrand Farnault, Head of Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, says, Targeted therapy is very efficient and was very well tolerated in case of patient P. The patient did not have any complications during the whole treatment process. More than one year after the end of her treatment, Ms. P. is in perfect health. She now has a normal life and is in total remission.
Dr. Bertrand also emphasises that: “Only 15 to 20 per cent of breast cancer patients are HER2 positive and are candidates for targeted therapy with the drug Trastuzumab. At Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, we have provided this targeted therapy to many patients in this group. Most of them have a much better prognosis after receiving treatment with Trastuzumab.”
Trastuzumab treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer
Clinical studies show chemotherapy plus Trastuzumab reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence in half of the patients with HER2 positive status, compared to chemotherapy alone.
Before making a treatment decision, testing for HER2 status is performed first.
The HER2 status of a tumour is determined by testing the tissue removed during a biopsy. At Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, all newly diagnosed breast cancers are tested for HER2 status. Any patient with HER2 positive status can be candidates for Trastuzumab treatment.
Targeted therapy with Trastuzumab is a revolutionary treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer patients. Some breast cancers have high amounts of a protein called HER2 on the surface of the cancer cells (i.e. they are HER2 positive). The HER2 protein is important in promoting cancer cell growth. Trastuzumab is a specially made antibody that targets HER2-positive cancer cells. When attached to the HER2 protein, Trastuzumab can slow down or stop the growth of these cancer cells.
More and more treatments for breast cancer are highly personalised as there are many different types of breast cancers. At Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, breast cancer patients are only recommended the treatments is personalised to each patient.