HER2 is a receptor that sits on the surface of cells in normal breast tissue. The job of this receptor is to promote cell growth. However, too many HER2 receptors can lead to uncontrolled tissue growth and the development of what is called HER2-positive breast cancer. Up to 30% of all breast cancer is HER2-positive.Currently, there are a number of drugs in use that bind to and disable the out-of-control HER2 receptors in HER2-positive breast cancer patients. However, many such patients develop a resistance to such drugs. Once resistance is developed, these drugs are no longer effective at disabling the out-of-control HER2 receptors.
In a study to be published in the September 15, 2008 edition of the journal Cancer Research, researchers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit have created a vaccine that is effective at disabling HER-2 receptors, even those that have become resistant to the anti-HER2 drugs, when tested in mice. The researchers hope this advance will lead to a vaccine for women whose HER2-positive breast cancers have become resistant to anti-HER2 drugs.