HER2-positive cancer and chemotherapy?

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Question from R. Lee: I have been told that my cancer was HER2 positive. What does that mean, and does it hinder my ability to respond to chemo?
Answers - Ann Ainsworth A positive HER2 test performed on a breast cancer means that the tumor has genes that are not normal. Cancers with too many copies of the HER2 gene or too much HER2 protein tend to be more aggressive and can be treated with an antibody to that extra gene's protein.
Marisa Weiss, M.D., President and Founder Cancers that have too much HER2 can have a very good response to chemotherapy. They tend to respond best to a chemotherapy that includes Adriamycin. They tend not to respond as well to CMF chemotherapy. Early results also show a good response to taxane chemotherapy (chemotherapy with Taxotere or Taxol). Cancers that are HER2 positive may have a better response to aromatase inhibitors than to tamoxifen.

It's important to know that this gene abnormality occurs during the course of your lifetime. In that way, the HER2 gene is different from the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and 2, which are the kind of gene abnormalities that are passed from one generation to another and are called inherited gene abnormalities.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Your Operative and Pathology Reports featured Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. and Ann Ainsworth, M.D. answering your questions about details of pathology and operative reports and the importance of discussing them with your doctors.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in November 2004.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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