Harvard Health Letter

Breakthrough breast cancer drug

Finally, some hope for women who've run out of options.

The word "remarkable" isn't often used to describe breast cancer treatments, but that's what doctors are calling T-DM1. It's a new drug for an especially ferocious cancer that accounts for 20% of breast cancers and affects women of all ages. "It's a remarkable drug for two reasons. One, it's very effective even in women who've already had their cancer progress on prior therapies. And two, it's remarkably low in side effects," says Dr. Ian Krop, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the lead investigators in the third and most recent trial of the drug. Findings were presented in June at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

HER2-positive cancer

HER2-normal breast cancer cell

Her-2 normal breast cancer cell

HER2-positive breast cancer cell

Her2-positive breast cancer cell

Left: HER2 receptors send signals telling cells to grow and divide. Right: Too many HER2 receptors send more signals, causing cells to grow too quickly.

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