What is HER 2 ?
HER 2 – Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2
Epidermal growth factor
Epidermal means outer skin
Commonly referred to as the HER2 Pathway
- Receptors are expressed by the cell, they are protein structures that anchor to the cell surface (like satellite dishes)
- The receptors function is to receive the epidermal growth signals and process them to the cells center – (Nuclei)
- These signals help the cell grow then divide
HER 2 is part of a family of 4 sibling HER’s -HER 1 HER 2, HER 3 & HER 4
- For a signal to be processed into the cell the HER receptors must pair with another – this pairing is called ‘Dimerization and creates the pathway to the nuclei of the cell
- It has been observed that the dimerization of HER 2 & HER 3 creates the most powerful signalling pathway
What goes wrong ?
It has been observed that some cells can have too many copies of the HER 2 gene within its nucleus, this can cause an over expression of receptors on the cells surface. With more receptors on the cell surface, comes more growth signals.
- Cells grow too fast and do not mature properly before they divide
- These immature cells are then referred to as mutated
- These mutations can become cancerous
Monoclonal highly targeted drugs
- Immunotherapy drugs designed to perform one single task are referred to as monoclonal (monoclonal Antibodies)
- Monoclonal drugs are designed to interfere or block the HER pathways
The science is that the monoclonal antibodies will attach a blocking agent (Blockade) to the HER 2 receptor preventing the growth factors from being received, therefore starving the mutated cell from growing.
This treatment has been very successful in Breast Cancer patients but less successful in other cancer types such as Lung or Pancreatic.
There are many trials that are searching for better results outside of breast cancer.