HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer

In metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer, or stageinfo-icon IV disease, the cancer cells have traveled from the breast and nearby lymphinfo-icon nodes and formed tumors in tissues or organs far away from the breast. Metastatic breast cancer can be:

  • Hormone receptorinfo-icon-positive
  • HER2-positive
  • Both hormone receptor-positive and HER2-positive
  • Triple-negative

If you are diagnosed with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer, it means the stage IV breast cancerinfo-icon can be treated with HER2-targeted therapyinfo-icon. You can find more information on how metastatic breast cancer is diagnosed on our pages about Metastatic Breast Cancer and Testing.

If you had early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer, the metastasisinfo-icon is likely to be HER2-positive as well.  Your medical oncologistinfo-icon may recommend you have a biopsyinfo-icon of any abnormalinfo-icon finding from an imaginginfo-icon test. The biopsy helps to:

  • diagnose the cancer
  • confirm the cancer is metastatic
  • check the receptorinfo-icon status to make sure it did not change from your original diagnosisinfo-icon

Metastatic HER2-positive breast cancers are more likely than other types of disease to spread to the brain and spinal cord, which with the spinal fluid make up the central nervous systeminfo-icon or CNS. Up to half of people diagnosed with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer develop metastases to the central nervous system. There are local therapies available to treat these metastases.

Treatments for HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer

Treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to organs other than the brain usually includes medicines that target the HER2 proteininfo-icon and block its actions. These HER2-targeted therapies are:

If the cancer is also hormone receptorinfo-icon-positive, hormonal therapyinfo-icon may be used in combination with HER2-targeted therapies and chemotherapy.

You may also consider taking part in a clinical trial, a study that looks at how well new medical approaches work in people. Clinicalinfo-icon trials offer access to new treatments that are not otherwise available and may prove to work better than standard treatments. Participating in a clinical trialinfo-icon also helps researchers develop better treatments for people diagnosed in the future.

Treatments for Brain Metastases

Most systemicinfo-icon, or whole-body, therapies have trouble reaching the brain. Medicines like trastuzumabinfo-icon and pertuzumabinfo-icon are monoclonal antibodies, molecules that have an even harder time than other treatments getting to the brain because of their large size. Researchers are studying small molecules, called tyrosine kinaise inhibitors or TKIs, to see whether they can more easily cross the blood-brain barrierinfo-icon.

Surgeryinfo-icon, usually followed by radiation therapyinfo-icon, is used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain. Treatments help reduce symptoms and protect the function of your brain.

August 31, 2015
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