1 out of 5 women in advanced stage of breast cancer is HER2 positive
Hyderabad: For a woman Breast Cancer is the greatest fears of all. It is the leading cause of death in women aged 35-55 and the second leading cause of death in
women of all ages. As many as eight to nine percent of women will develop
breast cancer during their lifetime, making it the second most common cancer
in the world.
In India, breast cancer accounts for 20 per cent of the total cancer-related
diseases and is largely prevalent among urban women.
According to The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part
of the World Health Organisation, there were approximately 79,000 women
per year affected by breast cancer in India in 2001 and over 80,000 women in
2002. Breast cancer has certain patterns in its incidence.
The incidence of breast cancer is higher in the urban areas (metropolitan
cities) than in rural areas, with Delhi having the highest incidence, followed
by Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Breast cancer occurs at a
younger age in India as compared to developed countries. Breast cancer is
not just one single disease - there are several types of breast cancer (such as
‘HER2-positive’), which grow at different rates, and respond differently to
HER2 positive breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer. About
one out of every five women with advanced breast cancers is HER2 positive.
HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. HER2 is a
protein produced by a specific gene with cancer-causing potential. It is a gene
that helps control how cells grow, divide, and repair themselves. It directs the
production of special proteins, called HER2 receptors. In this condition,
excessive quantities of a special growth promoting gene called HER2 is
present in the cells of the breast.
Research has shown that in case of women with HER2 positive breast cancer:
The tumors grow faster
There is an increased risk of spread
There are greater chances of the tumor coming back
Compared to women with normal breast cancer (HER2 negative) HER2
positive condition reduces the life expectancy of the woman by
The search for a cure for this deadly disease has led to the development of a
breakthrough line of therapy called targeted therapy, which helps combat
complicated forms of the disease effectively. Targeted therapies have
emerged as the latest treatment option for people suffering from cancers. The
therapy terminates the cancerous cells without affecting the quality of life of
Herceptin is a unique biologic targeted therapy for women with HER2-
positive breast cancer. It differs from traditional treatments. Cancer cells are
cells that grow in an uncontrolled fashion. Herceptin stops or slows the
growth of certain breast cancer cells by blocking the chemical signals they
need to grow. It specifically targets the cancerous cells that overexpress the
HER2 protein and blocks the tumour cell growth. It signals the body’s
immune system to kill the tumor cell and works with chemotherapy to slow
the growth of the tumor.
Since Herceptin targets mostly tumor cells that overexpress the HER2
protein, it does not affect normal healthy cells. Patients on this therapy alone
may be less likely to experience the side effects typical of other types of
treatments, such as hair loss, fatigue, or a decline in certain blood counts.
Benefits of target therapies over existing therapies.
Target therapies act only on the cancerous cells, thus the following side
affects are normally not experienced by patients who are administered this
Hair loss (alopecia)
Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite (anorexia)
Low white blood cell count (neutropenia)
Low red blood cell count (Anemia)
Diarrhea or constipation
Mouth sores (stomatitis or mucositis)
Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis)
Fever, body aches and pains
In men, lowering the number of sperm cells and reduce their ability to move
In women, it affects the ovaries reducing the amount of hormones they
Menstrual periods become irregular or stop completely
Targeted therapy is helping patients minimize side affects and greatly
enhance their quality of life.
The best protection against the diseases is awareness. Timely detection of
such a life threatening condition helps towards early treatment.
Early treatment of the condition not only prevents further disease progression
and complications but also gives better response rates.
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