Access to HER2-targeted therapy at a tertiary care center in India: An evolution

Indian J Cancer. 2022 Jul-Sep;59(3):375-379. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_841_19.


Background: In a previous retrospective audit from our institution we reported that patients had limited access to HER2-targeted therapy due to financial constraints. Subsequently, the advent of biosimilar versions of trastuzumab and philanthropic support has potentially changed this situation. Herein, we reanalyzed and reported access to HER2-targeted therapy in a more recent cohort of patients.

Methods: Medical records of new breast cancer patients registered in one calendar year were retrospectively reviewed, supplemented by online pharmacy data to extract information on receptor status, use of HER2-targeted therapy, and other relevant variables. Since not all HER2 immunohistochemistry (IHC) 2+ tumors underwent fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) testing, we estimated the probable HER2 amplified from this group based on a FISH amplified fraction in those HER2 2+ tumors who did undergo FISH.

Results: Between January 2016 and December 2016, 4717 new BC patients were registered at our institution, of whom 729 (20.04%) had HER2 IHC 3+ tumors while 641 (17.62%) had HER2 IHC 2+ tumors. The final number of HER2 overexpressing/amplified tumors was estimated to be 928 (729 HER2 IHC 3+, 105 known FISH amplified, and 94 estimated FISH amplified), of whom 831 received treatment at our institution. Overall 474 (57.03%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 53.6-60.4) of these 831 patients received trastuzumab for durations ranging from 12 weeks to 12 months in the (neo)adjuvant setting or other durations in metastatic setting compared to 8.61% (95% CI 6.2-11.6) usage of HER2-targeted therapy in the 2008 cohort.

Conclusion: Access to HER2-targeted therapy has substantially increased among patients treated at a public hospital in the past decade, likely due to the advent of biosimilars, the use of shorter duration adjuvant regimens, and philanthropic support. However, further efforts are required to achieve universal access to this potentially life-saving treatment.

Keywords: Access to care; HER2-targeted therapy; low middle-income countries.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals*
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Trastuzumab / therapeutic use


  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals
  • Trastuzumab
  • Biomarkers, Tumor