Approximately 30% of all breast cancers currently diagnosed have a genetic abnormality that results in excess production of the protein HER2. Earlier studies carried out by the groups of Dr. Baselga and Dr. Arribas showed that approximately one-third of HER2-positive tumors present high levels of fragments of this protein.
In comparison to tumors that present only the entire HER2 protein, the tumors with fragments have a worse outcome and are also resistant to treatment with Herceptin, a drug used routinely to treat HER2-positive tumors.
For this reason, one of the most noteworthy achievements of VHIO in 2008 was the work of the basic research group on growth factors, led by Joaquín Arribas, which resulted in the development of a new diagnostic test to detect fragments of HER2 in routine hospital clinical practice. This test will provide a better diagnosis in breast cancer patients and will make it possible to choose the most suitable treatment.
According to Arribas, “the result of this research is a unique example of the applicability of basic science to clinical practice, unlike in most published scientific studies, the results of which, over time, do not produce direct benefits in terms of diagnosis and/or treatment of patients”. In this case, the study significantly determines the treatment of choice for some patients and suggests the utility of developing new molecules that act on the HER2 fragments.
A Naturally Occurring HER 2 Carboxy-Terminal Fragment Promotes Mammary Tumor Growth and Metastasis
Kim Pedersen, Pier-Davide Angelini, Sirle Laos, Alba Bach-Faig, Matthew P. Cunningham, Cristina Ferrer-Ramon, Antonio Luque-García, Jesús García-Castillo, Josep Lluis Parra-Palau, Maurizio Scaltriti, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, José Baselga and Joaquín Arribas. Molecular and Cellular Biology, June 2009