Targeted Therapies and Breast Cancer
All of us have heard the buzz around "targeted therapies", and most of it is good. The simplistic definition is that these are molecular agents that are designed to attack a particular part of a breast (or other) cancer cell. Rather than trying to kill the whole cell all at once, as does chemotherapy, a targeted therapy uses stealth to depower or kill or otherwise ruin a single tiny part that then makes the whole cell inoperable--or dead. Think of tamoxifen (perhaps the first targeted therapy although it wasn't called that) and ER positive breast cancers or, more recently, herceptin and her2 positive ones.
There are two big advantages to us as patients: they often work very well and they don't cause hair loss or nausea or all the other unpleasant side effects of conventional chemotherapy because they don't kill healthy cells. This is an interview from the ASCO Post with Dr Baselga from Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York; he has long been one of the leaders in this research, and taking a little time to read the interview will give you an excellent education and overview of the field.
Here is the introduction and a link to read more:
Breakthroughs in Targeted Therapies for Breast Cancer Are
Improving Patient Survival Rates A Conversation with José Baselga,
The dream is to bring precision medicine forward in breast cancer, and whenever
possible, to think about reducing the use of chemotherapy.
—José Baselga, MD, PhD
For more than 20 years, José Baselga, MD, PhD, has devoted his medical and scientific
career to caring for breast cancer patients and the development of novel molecular
targeted agents to treat the disease. From 1996 to 2010, he was Head of the Oncology
Department of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, and from 2010 to 2012,
he was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and Associate Director of the
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston. In January, Dr. Baselga began
his new position as Physician-in-Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in
New York, where he is leading a staff of over 900 attending physicians and overseeing
the institution’s clinical and translational research programs.
Dr. Baselga’s laboratory investigations of growth factor receptors as targets for breast cancer therapy were
instrumental in the development of several molecularly targeted agents, including trastuzumab (Herceptin)
and lapatinib (Tykerb). More recently, Dr. Baselga led the clinical development and clinical trials of two new
drugs, pertuzumab (Perjeta) in the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and everolimus
(Afinitor) in the treatment of advanced hormone receptor–positive HER2-negative breast cancer. In 2012, the
therapies received FDA approval in the treatment of advanced breast cancer. Today, Dr. Baselga is focused on the clinical investigation of the next generation of PI3 kinase inhibitors for patients with mutations in the PI3 kinase alpha gene.
A Past President of the European Society for Medical Oncology, Dr. Baselga has served on the Board of
Directors of ASCO as well as the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and has received ASCO’s Young Investigator and Career Development Awards and AACR’s Rosenthal Family Award.