HER2-positive breast cancer: new therapeutic frontiers and overcoming resistance

Ther Adv Med Oncol. 2019 Mar 19:11:1758835919833519. doi: 10.1177/1758835919833519. eCollection 2019.


The introduction of anti-HER2 therapies to the treatment of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer has led to dramatic improvements in survival in both early and advanced settings. Despite this breakthrough, nearly all patients with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer eventually progress on anti-HER2 therapy due to de novo or acquired resistance. A better understanding not only of the underlying mechanisms of HER2 therapy resistance but of tumor heterogeneity as well as the host and tumor microenvironment is essential for the development of new strategies to further improve patient outcomes. One strategy has focused on inhibiting the HER2 signaling pathway more effectively with dual-blockade approaches and developing improved anti-HER2 therapies like antibody-drug conjugates, new anti-HER2 antibodies, bispecific antibodies, or novel tyrosine kinase inhibitors that might replace or be used in addition to some of the current anti-HER2 treatments. Combinations of anti-HER2 therapy with other agents like immune checkpoint inhibitors, CDK4/6 inhibitors, and PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors are also being extensively evaluated in clinical trials. These add-on strategies of combining optimized targeted therapies could potentially improve outcomes for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer but may also allow de-escalation of treatment in some patients, potentially sparing some from unnecessary treatments, and their related toxicities and costs.

Keywords: HER2-positive; breast cancer; drug–antibody conjugates; new anti-HER2 therapies; novel combinations; resistance; tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review