Maria Sykes
Maria Sykes
May 5, 2024 ·  2 min read

Researchers Treat HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Without Chemo

This article was originally published on February 7, 2019, and has since been updated

HER2-positive breast cancer is a type of aggressive cancer marked by uncontrolled production of breast cells. About 20% of women and men diagnosed with breast cancer have HER2-positive cancer, specifically. (1)

How is HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Usually Treated?

Currently, oncologists treat HER2-positive breast cancer patients with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or targeted treatments like Herceptin (trastuzumab), Kadcyla (Ado-trastuzumab-emtansine), Perjeta (Pertuzumab), and Tykerb (Lapatinib). (1)

These targeted treatments work by interfering with the protein that signals breast cell production, and they’re often used in conjunction with chemotherapy, which undoubtedly, can be a very arduous treatment process.

Is There a Better Way?

But research funded by Cancer Research UK and led by Professor Nigel Bundred pointed to a potential combination treatment which could be effective without chemotherapy. In the 2016 European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam, Bundred presented the team’s promising work.

By combining Herceptin and Tykerb treatments in 66 women with HER2-positive breast cancer before surgery and comparing the results to 191 similar women who were either treated with just one of the drugs or neither of them, 7 of the 66 women showed no trace of their tumors afterward. Another 11 of them showed considerable shrinkage of their tumors. (2)

This is especially positive because HER2-positive breast cancer has a greater risk of recurrence. So, eradicating the traces of malignant tumors seems promising for helping some patients to stay in remission.

We covered the full details of Bundred’s results in 2016 when the news first broke- click to read them here (highly recommended).

So, What’s New?

Since then, another team of researchers published a meta-analysis of this combination treatment in BMJ Open journal. Taking similar studies into account, they suggested that it can “significantly improve” the treatment response and survival outlooks for breast cancer patients whose bodies can tolerate it. (3)

To the second half of that point, the meta-analysis found that the combination treatment, although more effective, also came with more side effects, so it’s not the right choice for every cancer fighter.

Whether someone is diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer or HER2-negative breast cancer, the earlier you can catch it, the better. Everyone should know the symptoms of breast cancer, make a habit of properly self-examining their breasts, and discussing their risk of breast cancer with their medical care providers.

Read next: Breast cancer patient reveals the lifesaving tip that helped her detect a lump

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.