ASCO 2013: PET scan illuminates breast cancer’s weaknesses (VIDEO)

June 3, 2013 | by

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wpKyGTvm4I]

Trastuzumab (also known as Herceptin) and other breast cancer treatments targeting the HER2 protein have saved numerous lives, but the therapy doesn't benefit all patients equally. 

After two doses of Herceptin (one regular, then one with a tracer agent), City of Hope researchers are able to visualize breast cancer metastases that are receptive to HER2 treatments (glowing spots in lower right diagram.)

After administering two doses of Herceptin (one regular, then one with a tracer agent), City of Hope researchers were able to visualize breast cancer metastases that were receptive to HER2 treatments (glowing spots in lower right diagram).

Further, because treatments are expensive — Herceptin for a year costs approximately $54,000 — and come with serious side effects, clinicians are looking for ways to identify breast cancers that are most likely to respond to the drug.

The answer may lie in positron emission tomography (PET) scans, according to City of Hope research being presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

In the study, researchers administered a dose of trastuzumab to patients followed by another dose of trastuzumab modified with a tracing agent. The idea is that, although tumor and normal tissues alike will take up the normal trastuzumab, only the cancer cells will take up the tracing agent-modified trastuzumab, allowing for better visualization of the tumor.

Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women’s Cancers Program at City of Hope and lead author of the study, said that, in addition to identifying tumors that were responsive to HER2 treatments, the study also found that some tumors classified as HER2-negative took in the tracer-linked trastuzumab as well. That finding implies a possible benefit for anti-HER2 treatments for this group, as well, and is worth further investigation, she said.

Mortimer discussed the findings in the video above. 


  • Kathy Sargent

    If I am Her2+ and have already gotten 1 round of Herceptin and it apparently didn't work well since we have found cancer cells in a lymph node, would my cancer be receptive to Kadcyla & Herceptin? Should I be having this procedure(PETscan) done to determine the answer?

    • http://www.cityofhope.org City of Hope

      We can’t say whether this approach would be appropriate for you, Kathy – and not only because the study was preliminary. Quite simply, only physicians with complete access to your records, history and case should address that question. We wish you the best, however, and we hope that this new research is explored further. Breast cancer patients, like all cancer patients, should have as much information as possible.