Inactivating Amplified HER2: Challenges, Dilemmas, and Future Directions

Cancer Res. 2022 Aug 16;82(16):2811-2820. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-22-1121.


The pharmaceutical inactivation of driver oncogenes has revolutionized the treatment of cancer, replacing cytotoxic chemotherapeutic approaches with kinase inhibitor therapies for many types of cancers. This approach has not yet been realized for the treatment of HER2-amplified cancers. The monotherapy activities associated with HER2-targeting antibodies and kinase inhibitors are modest, and their clinical use has been in combination with and not in replacement of cytotoxic chemotherapies. This stands in sharp contrast to achievements in the treatment of many other oncogene-driven cancers. The mechanism-based treatment hypothesis regarding the inactivation of HER2 justifies expectations far beyond what is currently realized. Overcoming this barrier requires mechanistic insights that can fuel new directions for pursuit, but scientific investigation of this treatment hypothesis, particularly with regards to trastuzumab, has been complicated by conflicting and confusing data sets, ironclad dogma, and mechanistic conclusions that have repeatedly failed to translate clinically. We are now approaching a point of convergence regarding the challenges and resiliency in this tumor driver, and I will provide here a review and opinion to inform where we currently stand with this treatment hypothesis and where the future potential lies.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab