Neoadjuvant Herceptin® plus Taxotere® Promising in Early Breast Cancer

Neoadjuvant Herceptin® plus Taxotere® Promising in Early Breast Cancer

According to an article recently published in the Annals of Oncology, preoperative (neoadjuvant) therapy consisting of Herceptin® (trastuzumab) plus Taxotere® (docetaxel) appears promising in the treatment of HER2-positive, early breast cancer.

Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER-2 protein-a protein that is involved in cellular growth and replication and overexpressed in roughly 30% of breast cancers. The binding of Herceptin to HER-2 prevents or reduces replication of cancer cells. Herceptin is currently approved for the treatment of HER2-positive, metastatic breast cancer.

The combination of Herceptin with a chemotherapy agent improves breast cancer outcomes compared to chemotherapy alone in early breast cancer. Researchers therefore continue to evaluate ways to utilize Herceptin in the treatment of early breast cancer.

Neoadjuvant therapy may be used in patients with early breast cancer to optimize their chances of undergoing breast-conserving surgery (surgical removal of the cancer and surrounding healthy tissue) instead of a mastectomy (surgical removal of the complete breast).

Neoadjuvant therapy often shrinks the cancer enough so that surgical removal is feasible with breast-conserving therapy without compromising long-term outcomes. Since the addition of Herceptin to chemotherapy has demonstrated improved outcomes compared to chemotherapy alone in early breast cancer, researchers are now evaluating treatment combinations including Herceptin for use as neoadjuvant therapy in early breast cancer.

Researchers from France recently conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of Herceptin plus Taxotere as neoadjuvant therapy in patients with stages II-III breast cancer. This trial included 29 patients with HER2-positive breast cancer. Neoadjuvant therapy with Herceptin/Taxotere provided promising results:

  • Partial or complete disappearance of cancer occurred in 96% of patients following Herceptin/Taxotere.
  • Breast-conserving surgery was achieved in 77% of patients.
  • Treatment was generally well-tolerated; serious neutropenia (low levels of immune cells) occurred in 85% of patients, while neutropenia accompanied by fever occurred in 18% of patients.

The researchers concluded that neoadjuvant therapy consisting of Herceptin and Taxotere provides significant anticancer activity and allows for high rates of breast-conserving therapy in patients with HER2-positive, stages II-III breast cancer. Future trials are necessary to confirm these findings.

Patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer who wish to undergo breast-conserving therapy may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating neoadjuvant therapy consisting of Herceptin/Taxotere or other promising therapeutic approaches.

Reference: Coudert B, Arnould L, Moreau L, et al. Pre-operative systemic (neo-adjuvant) therapy with trastuzumab and docetaxel for HER2-overexpressing stage II or III breast cancer: results of a multicenter phase II trial. Annals of Oncology. 2005; 17: 409-414.

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