Non-small cell lung cancer clinical trials with trastuzumab: their foundation and preliminary results

Lung Cancer. 2002 Jul;37(1):17-27. doi: 10.1016/s0169-5002(02)00035-1.


The overexpression of HER2, a transmembrane glycoprotein tyrosine kinase, has been implicated in mitogenesis, cell survival, invasion and angiogenesis. Preclinical evidence suggests that HER2 overexpression contributes to tumor progression in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and retrospective clinical correlative studies show that it is probably associated with poor clinical outcome. Trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech Inc., South San Francisco, CA) is a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody that targets HER2 and is currently approved for use in the treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Two primary mechanisms proposed for the activity of trastuzumab are downregulation of HER2 and induction of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Evidence from preclinical studies of trastuzumab in NSCLC and other cell lines, the presence of HER2 overexpression in NSCLC clinical specimens and the clinical benefit derived from trastuzumab in phase II and III metastatic breast cancer trials have led to the development of clinical trials of trastuzumab in NSCLC. Phase II studies of trastuzumab in patients with stage IIIB or IV NSCLC are being conducted to test the efficacy of trastuzumab as a single agent or in combination with chemotherapy. Preliminary results show combinations of chemotherapy plus trastuzumab are well tolerated, with encouraging response rates of 21-40%. A randomized phase II trial of chemotherapy with or without trastuzumab showed promise in a small subgroup of patients with 3+ HER2 overexpression by immunohistochemistry or HER2 DNA amplification by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Taken together, these data indicate that trastuzumab warrants further investigation in a clinical study in selected patients with NSCLC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Genes, erbB-2
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Trastuzumab
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Trastuzumab