A new study at the University of Michigan have found that the protein HER2, plays a role in what would be traditionally classed as HER2 negative breast tumours. This finding means that Herceptin, a commonly used
breast cancer drug in patients who are HER2 positive, might also have a role in other breast cancers.

Around 20% of women with breast cancer express the HER2 gene and Herceptin, which blocks this protein, has had a dramatic impact on survival rates in these women. The new findings mean that the drug could have potential benefits in the other 65% of women affected by breast cancer.

The study basically looked back at old cases and found that a large proportion of these had been incorrectly classified as HER2 positive, and the patients were treated and benefitted from receiving Herceptin. That these
women were actually HER 2 negative and still benefitted , is great news as it means the drug could potentially be used successfully on a much larger proportion of women with breast cancer . This work will need closer study to
try and confirm the results, but if it is confirmed then it could alter the way we treat breast cancer.

Herceptin seems to be particularly effective in reducing the occurrence of bone metastases (spread) and is therefore and important adjuvant on top of medications used to shrink the actual tumour. It is especially effective if given early on, when these metastases are small or even before they occur.

Hopefully the results can be confirmed by clinical trials and benefit more women affected by breast cancer.