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HER-2 positive breast cancer: Herceptin added to radiation therapy

Researchers in the North Central Cancer Treatment Group ( NCCTG ) have shown that patients who receive Trastuzumab ( Herceptin ) at the same time as post-chemotherapy radiation treatments for HER-2 positive breast cancer have no more risk for major side effects or complications than those who do not receive the drug.

This study resulted from NCCTG clinical trial N9831, from which breakthrough treatment findings were presented at ASCO 2005.

" The original N9831 study showed that Trastuzumab reduced the recurrence of HER-2 positive breast cancer about 50 percent," says Michele Halyard, at Mayo Clinic Arizona and lead author of study. "

About 25 percent to 30 percent of breast cancers produce an overabundance of a growth-promoting protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor ( HER-2 ).
These tumors tend to grow faster and are generally more likely to recur than tumors that do not overproduce HER-2.
Trastuzumab is the first identified monoclonal antibody designed specifically to attack this overexpressed protein, and is used as a follow-on treatment to chemotherapy.

Halyard's study looked at the side effects related to adding Trastuzumab to radiation therapy.
In the 1,460 patients who received radiation in the original N9831 group, there was no significant difference in the incidence of skin reactions, pneumonitis, dyspnea, cough, esophageal dysphagia or neutropenia between those who received Trastuzumab ( 908 ), and those who did not ( 552 ).
Additionally, the researchers report that within the group of 1,286 patients who received Trastuzumab, those who had radiation ( 908 ) were no more likely to have cardiac complications than those who did not ( 378 ).

Source: Mayo Clinic, 2006