, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 55-66
Date: 04 Mar 2009

Stemming Resistance to HER-2 Targeted Therapy

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Although the development of trastuzumab and lapatinib has improved the outlook for women with HER-2 positive breast cancer, resistance to HER-2 targeted therapy is a growing clinical dilemma. Recent evidence indicates that the HER-2 pathway may play an important role in the maintenance of cancer stem cells (CSCs). The success of HER-2 targeted therapies may, in part, be explained by their direct activity against HER-2 positive CSCs. Our understanding of the mechanisms involved in resistance to trastuzumab, including loss or blockade of the trastuzumab binding site, activation of alternative signaling pathways, and induction of epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT), suggests that CSCs may be at the root of resistance of HER-2 targeted therapy. A variety of novel HER-2 targeted approaches have demonstrated promising preliminary clinical activity. Future clinical trials should involve the integration of technologies to assess the impact of novel HER-2 targeted therapies on HER-2 positive CSCs.